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David Talbott 
Wallace Thornhill 

A radical reinterpretation of human history 
and the evolution of the solar system 



David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill 

Mikamar Publishing 

Portland, Oregon 

To the scientists and historians of the future 

Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Copyright © 2004 

David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any 
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any 
other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data: 

Thunderbolts of the Gods / by David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill 
1. Plasma and electricity in space 2. Plasma phenomena in ancient times 
3. Origins of mythology and symbolism 4. The cosmic thunderbolt 

ISBN XX xxxx xxxxxx 

Printed in the United States of America by 

Mikamar Publishing 

1616 NW 143rd 
Portland, Oregon 97229 

“It is the thunderbolt that steers the universe!” 

Heraclitus, fifth century B.C. 


On a spiral arm of a galaxy called the Milky Way, nine planets 
move in peaceful, clock-like procession around a yellow dwarf star 
called the Sun. The planets move on highly predictable paths, and 
by all appearances nothing has changed in a billion years. The 
inhabitants of the third planet, the Earth, can see five of their celes¬ 
tial neighbors without the aid of telescopes. Surrounded by the 
background stars, these objects do little to distinguish themselves in 
the night sky. And few of us today have learned to identify the five 
visible planets against the starry dome. 

Earlier cultures were not so complacent about the planets. They 
invoked these bodies with fear and reverence. In ancient Mesopota¬ 
mia, astronomer-priests insisted that the planets determined the fate 
of the world. In their prayers to the planets they summoned memo¬ 
ries of heaven-shattering catastrophe. What was it about these 
celestial objects that inspired this cultural anxiety? And why did so 
many ancient accounts insist that the movements of the planets 
once changed ? That was Plato’s message more than 2300 years 
ago. The Babylonian chronicler Berossus said it too: the planets 
now move on different courses. But these are only two of the more 
familiar voices amidst a chorus of ancient witnesses. 

In archaic texts the planetary gods were a quarrelsome lot. They 
were giants in the sky, wielding weapons of thunder, fire, and stone. 
Their wars not only disturbed the heavens but threatened to destroy 
the earth. Driven by reverence and fear, ancient cultures from 
Mesopotamia to China, from the Mediterranean to the Americas, 
honored the planets with pomp and zeal, seeking to placate these 
celestial powers through human sacrifice. The best English word 
for this cultural response is obsession. 

From the Sun outward, the nine 
planets of our solar system are 
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupi¬ 
ter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and 
Pluto. Astronomers believe that 
the order of the planets has 
remained unchanged over the 
eons. But this uniquely modern 
belief rests on assumptions about 
gravity that predate the discovery 
of electricity and the arrival of the 
space age. 

The authors of this book have each spent more than thirty years 
investigating the ancient message, and this has led us to question a 
pillar of theoretical science today—the "uneventful solar system." 
Following quite different research paths, we arrived at the same 
conclusion: the ancient sky was alive with activity. The evidence 
suggests that only a few thousand years ago planets moved close to 
the earth, producing electrical phenomena of intense beauty and 
terror. Ancient sky worshippers witnessed these celestial wonders, 
and far-flung cultures recorded the events in the great myths, sym¬ 
bols, and ritual practices of antiquity. 

A costly misunderstanding of planetary history must now be 
corrected. The misunderstanding arose from fundamental errors 
within the field of cosmology, the "queen" of the theoretical sci¬ 
ences. Mainstream cosmologists, whether trained as physicists, 
mathematicians, or astronomers, consider gravity to be the control¬ 
ling force in the heavens. From this assumption arose the doctrine 
of eons-long solar system stability—the belief that under the rule of 
gravity the nine planets have moved on their present courses since 
the birth of the solar system. Seen from this vantage point, the 
ancient fear of the planets can only appear ludicrous. 

We challenge this modern belief. We contend that humans once 
saw planets suspended as huge spheres in the heavens. Immersed in 
the charged particles of a dense plasma, celestial bodies "spoke" 
electrically and plasma discharge produced heaven-spanning for¬ 
mations above the terrestrial witnesses. In the imagination of the 
ancient myth-makers, the planets were alive: they were the gods, 
the ruling powers of the sky—awe inspiring, often capricious, and 
at times wildly destructive. 

Cosmic lightning evolved violently from one discharge configu¬ 
ration to another, following patterns observed in high-energy 
plasma experiments and only recently revealed in deep space as 
well. Around the world, our ancestors remembered these discharge 
configurations in apocalyptic terms. They called them the "thunder¬ 
bolts of the gods." 


• Chapter One: Convergence 

• Chapter Two: Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

• Chapter Three: Electrical Encounters in Space 

Recovering the lost messages of world mythology... 

"Perseus Releases Andromeda," painting by 
Joachim Wiewael, 1630. When king Cepheus 
offended Poseidon, the god sent a flood and a sea 
monster to devastate the land. Cepheus hoped to 
appease the dragon by sacrificing his daughter. But 
Perseus, riding the winged horse Pegasus, defeated 

the monster, winning the king’s permission to wed 

Beautiful princess, chaos dragon, warrior-hero, 
and lost kingdom: the themes are commonplace in 
world mythology. But the historic roots of the themes 
continue to elude the experts who study them. 

.. .with new tools and perspectives in the sciences 

Beginning many centuries ago, a rebellion are re-examining mythology, wondering if ancient 
against traditional myth and magic led to the emer- stories of disaster have a scientific explanation, 
gence of the scientific method. Experiment and sys- Could the mythic “dragon’s assault,” for example, 
tematic observation of nature replaced belief in the refer to a natural catastrophe affecting the entire 
gods of antiquity, leading eventually to an explosion earth? The answer to such questions will come from 
of space age discovery. Yet today many scientists the surprising role of electricity in space. 

The Roman warrior Mithras (Persian Mithra) emerges from the cosmic egg, 
carrying a lightning bolt in his right hand and a staff in his left. Around his 
body entwines the cosmic serpent, a prototype of the mythic dragon. 


The Lens of Human Perception 

When we gaze up at the stars, do we believe what we see, or see 
what we believe? Our beliefs and assumptions are like eyeglasses: 
they can help us see more clearly, but they can also limit our field of 

Today, most astronomers assure us that the solar system is both 
stable and predictable. But new vistas in the sciences often expose 
flaws in notions that once seemed obvious. Only a few decades ago, 
all well-trained, feet-on-the-ground scientists “knew” that— 

• Space is empty and cannot conduct electricity; 

• Magnetic fields do not exist in space; 

• The tails of comets are pushed away from the Sun by the pres¬ 
sure of light; 

• Jupiter and Saturn have been cold and inactive since the early 
history of the solar system; 

• The planet Mars has been geologically dead for more than a 
billion years; 

• Venus is our "sister planet," with temperatures close to those 
of the Earth; 

• There are no other galaxies outside our own; 

• There is no evidence for planet-wide geological disturbances 
of the Earth in the past. 

Before new findings disproved these beliefs, 
they were so "obviously true" as to discourage 
challenges. It is easy to confuse theoretical 
assumption with fact. And today the tendency 
often conceals a tacit belief that, despite the mis¬ 
takes of previous generations, we have the big 
picture right and the remaining task is simply to 
tidy things up a bit. 

The actual situation in the sciences calls for 
openness to new possibilities. Our vision of the 
universe is changing more rapidly than ever 
before, as space exploration fuels an explosion of 
discovery. Before the advent of the space age, we could view the 
universe only in the few wavelengths of visible light seen from the 
surface of the Earth. Now we have expanded our vision into the 
ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma-ray in the short wavelengths of the 

The monstrous Tarantula Nebula, 
named for its many spidery fila¬ 
ments, is one of innumerable point¬ 
ers to magnetic fields in space, the 
result of electric currents. 

New Lenses 
for Viewing the Universe 

Galileo's telescope could see 
eight times better than the 
unaided eye. It was strong 
enough to see four of the moons 
of Jupiter and the phases of 
Venus, but not the rings of Sat¬ 
urn. Yet the new data Galileo col¬ 
lected in his first few weeks of 
telescopic observations, com¬ 
bined with his powerful insight, 
overthrew the Ptolemaic view of the 
universe—a view accepted for more than a thou¬ 
sand years. 

In the past 50 years, the observing power of 
astronomical instruments has expanded to levels 
inconceivable in the sixteenth century. Our optical 

Galileo’s Telescope 

telescopes are many times more 
powerful than Galileo's, and we 
have added instruments that 
detect the cosmos in wavelengths 
our eyes cannot see—radio, 
microwave, infrared, ultraviolet, 
x-ray, and gamma-ray. Also, for 
the first time in human history, 
we can see both the Earth and the 
universe from viewpoints no 
longer confined to the surface of 
the Earth. 

Today, we have enormous tele¬ 
scopes on the ground and tele¬ 
scopes riding high-altitude 
balloons. We have telescopes in 
orbit: around Earth, Mars, and Jupi¬ 
ter—even around a point in space where gravity 
between Earth and Sun is in balance. The recent 
flood of data from space not only sheds new light 
on traditional views of the universe, but introduces 
fundamentally new possibilities as well. 

ABOVE, left to right: 100-meter radio telescope at Green plex structures in remote space. Chandra x-ray telescope, 

Bank, West Virginia; launch of the microwave balloon capturing high-energy stellar and galactic systems; SOHO 

TIGER; Jupiter probe from the Galileo mission to Jupiter telescope, observing the Sun from an equilibrium position 
and its moons. BELOW: Hubble Telescope, revealing com- between the Earth and the Sun. 


electromagnetic spectrum and into infrared, microwave, and radio 
in the long wavelengths. We can view at close range the surfaces of 
planets, moons, asteroids and comets. We can even touch and 
chemically "taste" them. 

The new discoveries accent the unexpected —a sign that some¬ 
thing is wrong at the level of first assumptions. In fact, two of the 
most far-reaching discoveries of the past century came as great sur¬ 
prises: the pervasive role of charged particles in the universe; and 
the signature of planetary catastrophe throughout our solar system. 
The "big picture" of space has changed. 

For centuries astronomers assumed that gravity is the only force 
that can give birth to stars and planets or can direct the motions of 
celestial bodies. They assumed that all bodies in the universe are 
electrically neutral, comprised of equal numbers of negative and 
positive particles. With this assumption astronomers were able to 
ignore the extremely powerful electric force. It was a fatal mistake. 
From the smallest particle to the largest galactic formation, a web 
of electrical circuitry connects and unifies all of nature, organizing 
galaxies, energizing stars, giving birth to planets and, on our own 
world, controlling weather and animating biological organisms. 
There are no isolated islands in an "electric universe." 

The medium for this more “holistic” view of the universe is 
plasma, a highly conductive state of matter, distinguished by the 
presence of freely moving charged particles. We now know that 
plasma fills all of space—a fact unknown to the pioneers of gravita¬ 
tional theory. Except for the Earth and a few rocky planets, moons, 
and wandering solid objects, most bodies in space are composed of 
plasma. Moreover, a crescendo of evidence reviewed in this volume 
(and those to follow) makes clear that distant stars, our Sun, and the 
planets are charged bodies. Immersed in a conductive medium, they 
interact continuously—and sometimes explosively—with their 
celestial environment. 

Today, nothing is more important to the future and credibility of 
science than liberation from the gravity-driven universe of prior 
theory. A mistaken supposition has not only prevented intelligent 
and sincere investigators from seeing what would otherwise be 

A logarithmic chart of the electro¬ 
magnetic spectrum reveals how 
narrow is the range of visible light. 
The shorter wavelengths emitted 
by celestial bodies (most ultraviolet 
light, X-rays and Gamma Rays) do 
not reach the surface of the Earth 
and can only be measured by 
instruments placed in space. On 
the other hand, radio waves 
between about a centimeter to 10 
meters in wavelength find the 
atmosphere transparent. As a 
result, earth-based radio tele¬ 
scopes have become an important 
adjunct to traditional astronomy. 


Celestial 0 
Seen Up ( 

Crab Nebula as viewed in the 
mid-20th century. 

On July 4, 1054 AD, Chinese chroniclers 
recorded an apparent supernova they called a "guest 
star" in the constellation Taurus, near the star Zeta 
Tauri. It was bright enough to be visible in daylight, 
but faded and disappeared again about a year later. In 
1731 astronomer John Bevis discovered a bright neb¬ 
ula in the same location. When Charles Messier saw 
it in 1758, he first thought this "fuzzy object" might 
be a comet, but he found that it never moved. 

Using a larger telescope in 1844, Lord Ross 
thought the nebula resembled a crab's claw, and the 
description stuck. More than ten light years across, 
the Crab Nebula is thought to be the remains of a star 
that exploded in 1054. 

Today's astronomical instruments see much more 
than Messier's fuzzy patch. They see filaments and 
complex structures, in colors and wavelengths that 
highlight newly discovered phenomena.For example, 
the star at the center of the nebula blinks 30 times a 
second. We now call such stars "pulsars." 

This high-resolution picture of the Crab Nebula, taken 
by the Very Large Telescope (VLT), shows the filamen- 
tation produced by magnetic fields and electric currents, 
with material racing outward at "higher speed than 
expected from a free explosion," according to NASA 
reports. Acceleration of particles is a trademark of elec¬ 
trical activity. 

In this photograph taken by the Chandra X-Ray Tele¬ 
scope, we see the internal structure and dynamics of the 
Crab Nebula—a torus around a polar column, or a 
"doughnut on a stick." Plasma physicists find this of par¬ 
ticular interest because x-ray activity always accompa¬ 
nies high-energy electrical interactions. 

One of a series of Hubble Space Telescope images 
showing filamentary material racing away from the core 
of the Crab Nebula at half the speed of light, giving rise 
to what NASA spokesmen call "a scintillating halo, and 
an intense knot of emission dancing, sprite-like, above 
the pulsar's pole." Though gravitational theories never 
envisioned the polar "jets," "haloes," and "knots" 
depicted in the accompanying images we can now rec¬ 
ognize these configurations as prime examples of elec¬ 
trical forces in the universe. 



Sgr Hi 


NewSS'R 0.3 * 0.0 


Thtr CiMt* 

" Biickgruumi Galaxy* 


thfg&ti: Tim Ptriirurt 

C Cuhvrenf 



N. ^ 

obvious, it has bred an indifference to possibilities that could have 
inspired the sciences for decades. It has also obscured the link 
between new findings in space and the human past, a link with 
implications far beyond the physical sciences. 

Plasma Phenomena in Ancient Times 

The discovery of the “electric universe” does not just change 
the picture of the heavens. It also changes what we see and hear in 
messages from the ancient world. Over the past century and a half, 
archaeologists have unearthed huge libraries of archaic texts, many 
of them describing great spectacles in the heavens. But the special¬ 
ists set aside these descriptions as "untrustworthy" because they 
accepted a priori the uneventful solar system assumed by astrono¬ 
mers. Most historians do not doubt that the ancient sky looked 
almost exactly like our sky today. Consequently, they give little or 
no attention to the "extravagant" or "nonsensical" claims of early 
sky worshippers. 

But were it possible for us to stand alongside our early ances¬ 
tors, to witness the events that provoked the age of myth-making 
and the birth of the archaic religions, the celestial dramas would 
exceed anything conceivable in our own time. The sky was electric, 
filled with luminous clouds, threads of light, and undulating rivers 
of fire. To today’s observer the events could only appear too vast, 
too improbable for anything but a dream. 

A portrait of the center of our Milky 
Way galaxy constructed from radio 
data. NASA spokesmen note "the 
arcs, threads, and filaments which 
abound in the scene. Their uncer¬ 
tain origins challenge present the¬ 
ories of the dynamics of the 
galactic center." Arcs, threads and 
filaments are typical forms of elec¬ 
trical discharge in plasma. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Yet to a modern-day witness the formations in the sky would 
also seem eerily familiar, as if remembered. 

In these pages we contend that humans living today have seen 
the events before, through their universal reflection in art and story¬ 
telling. Formations now known to be characteristic of electric dis¬ 
charge in plasma are the core images of the antique world, recorded 
on papyrus and stone, mirrored in the sacred symbols of the great 
religions, reenacted in mystery plays, and embodied in monumental 
construction on every habitable continent. Once recognized, the 
images leap from every ancient culture. The sky was once a theater 
of awe and terror: on this the ancient witnesses speak with one 

Unique Behavior of Plasma 

Although plasma behavior follows simple electromagnetic 
laws, the resulting complexity continues to astonish the specialists 
who study it. Because plasma exhibits characteristics not found in 
solids, liquids, or gases, it has been called "the fundamental state of 
matter." It can self-organize into cells of differing electrical charac¬ 
teristics. Electric currents in plasma form filaments that attract each 
other at long distances and repel each other at short distances. 
These filaments tend to braid themselves into "ropes" that act as 
power transmission lines, with virtually no limit to the distances 
over which they can operate. 

In the rarefied plasma of space, the subtle flow of electricity is 
not easily measured, but these currents leave a definitive signa- 

Solar prominences reveal the 
powerful influence of magnetic 
fields. However, magnetic fields 
require electric currents, and the 
fields alone do not cause the 
prominences. The picture on the 
right is direct evidence of electrical 
discharge on the Sun. 



ture—a network of magnetic fields throughout the observed uni¬ 
verse. Astronomers detect these fields but give no attention to the 
electric cause: magnetic fields are produced only by electricity. The 
complex magnetic fields we observe are evidence that plasma is 
carrying electrical energy across galactic and intergalactic space, 
powering secondary systems, including galaxies, stars, and planets. 
Exceedingly subtle charge imbalances, across the immense volume 
of space, are quite sufficient to configure and animate cosmic struc¬ 
tures at all scales of observation. The reason for this power of elec¬ 
tricity is very simple: the electric force is 1039 times (a thousand 
billion, billion, billion, billion times) more powerful than gravity. 
Contrary to popular belief nature does not rely on the trivially weak 
force of gravity to do the “really big jobs” in the cosmos. 

To see the connection between plasma experiments and plasma 
formations in space, it is essential to understand the scalability of 
plasma phenomena. Under similar conditions, plasma discharge 
will produce the same formations irrespective of the size of the 
event. The same basic patterns will be seen at laboratory, planetary, 
stellar, and galactic levels. Duration is proportional to size as well. 
A spark that lasts for microseconds in the laboratory may continue 
for years at planetary or stellar scales, or for millions of years at 
galactic or intergalactic scales. 

The scalability of plasma events enables researchers, utilizing 
laboratory experiments and supercomputer simulation, to replicate 
stellar and galactic evolution, including many enigmatic formations 
only recently discovered in deep space. Gravitational models do not 
achieve comparable success, and often fail completely. 

Many of astronomy’s most fundamental mysteries now find 
their resolution in plasma behavior. Why do cosmic bodies spin, 

B Spiral galaxy M81, in one of the first 

images returned by NASA’s new 
Spitzer space telescope. The tele¬ 
scope can detect extremely faint 
waves of infrared radiation, or heat, 
through clouds of dust and plasma 
that have blocked the view of con¬ 
ventional telescopes. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

asked the distinguished astronomer Fred Hoyle, in summarizing the 
unanswered questions. Plasma experiments show that rotation is a 
natural function of interacting currents in plasma. Currents can 
pinch matter together to form rotating stars and galaxies. A good 
example is the ubiquitous spiral galaxy, a predictable configuration 
of a cosmic-scale discharge. Computer models of two current fila¬ 
ments interacting in a plasma have, in fact, reproduced fine details 
of spiral galaxies, where the gravitational schools must rely on 
invisible matter arbitrarily placed wherever it is needed to make 
their models "work." 

It is worth noting also that plasma experiments, backed by com¬ 
puter simulations of plasma discharge, can produce galactic struc¬ 
tures without recourse to a popular fiction of modern 
astrophysics—the Black Hole. Astronomers require invisible, 
super-compressed matter as the center of galaxies because without 
Black Holes gravitational equations cannot account for observed 
movement and compact energetic activity. But charged plasma 
achieves such effects routinely. 

Photograph of the comet Hale 
Bopp, taken April 7, 1997 as it 
receded from the Sun, passing in 
front of a star cluster in the con¬ 
stellation Perseus. In addition to 
the dust tail of the comet, the fila¬ 
mentary bluish ion tail (positively 
charged particles) testifies to elec¬ 
trical behavior of comets only 
recently recognized. 

Planets, Comets, and Plasma Discharge 

The new revelations of plasma science enable us to see that 
planets are charged bodies moving through a weak electric field of 
the Sun. Astronomers do not recognize planetary charge because 
the planets now move on nearly circular orbits. The change in elec¬ 
tric potential during a revolution is so minimal as to pro¬ 
duce no obvious effects. (We take up the subtle 
indicators of planetary circuits in our second mono¬ 
graph; these indicators include auroras, weather patterns, 
lightning, dust devils, water spouts, and tornadoes.) 

It is easier to see the electric force in action when a 
comet approaches the Sun on an elongated orbit that car¬ 
ries it quickly into regions of greater electrical stress. 
Plasma will form a cell, or “sheath,” around any object 
within it that has a different electric potential. If the 
potential difference is low, the plasma sheath will be 
invisible. This is the case with the planets, whose plasma sheaths 
are called “magnetospheres” because the planetary magnetic field is 
trapped inside. Unlike a planet, however, a comet spends most of its 
time far from the Sun and takes on a charge in balance with that 
region of the Sun’s electric field. As it speeds toward the Sun, its 
charge is increasingly out of balance with its surroundings. Eventu¬ 
ally, the plasma sheath glows in response to the electric stresses. 
This is what we see as the coma and ion tail of a comet. The dust 
tail is formed when more intense discharge—in the form of an elec¬ 
tric arc to the comet nucleus—removes surface material and 



launches it into space. The internal electric stress may even blow 
the comet apart—as often and "inexplicably" occurs! 

Our claim that comets are electrical in nature can be easily 
tested. Are comet nuclei "wet" or "dry"? The standard model of 
comets explains them as "dirty snowballs" sublimating under the 
heat of the Sun. Escaping water vapor generates the coma and is 
"blown" away by the solar wind to produce the diffuse tail 
spanning up to millions of miles. In the electrical model a large 
rock containing no volatiles (ices) but on an elliptical orbit will 
still generate a coma and tail as electric discharge excavates 
material from the surface. The standard comet model, however, 
will not survive the discovery of a comet nucleus free of vola¬ 

Already, the comet question is being answered. As the 
spacecraft Deep Space 1 flew by the nucleus of Comet Borrelly, 
it found that the surface was "hot and dry." Instruments 
detected not a trace of water on the surface. The only water dis¬ 
covered was in the coma and tail, where it could easily be 
explained by reactions of negatively charged oxygen from the 
nucleus with positively charged hydrogen ions from the Sun. 
These reactions are, in fact, observed. But with no other model 
than that of the dirty snowball, astronomers could only assume that 
water must be present on the nucleus but hidden beneath the sur¬ 

Then, NASA's Stardust probe to comet Wild-2 (pronounced vilt 
2) startled investigators with the best pictures ever of a comet. In its 
approach to the comet, short but intense bursts of microscopic dust 
from the comet blasted the spacecraft as it crossed two jets. "These 
things were like a thunderbolt," said Anthony Truzollino, a Senior 
Scientist at the University of Chicago's Enrico Fermi Institute. To 
the bafflement of project scientists, the pictures showed sharply 
defined “spires, pits and craters”—just the opposite of the attenu¬ 
ated relief expected of an evaporating snowball. The discovery was 
more than surprising, "it was mind-boggling," the scientists said. 
But a ruggedly etched landscape is predicted by the electric model. 

Comet Wild 2, in a composite of the 
nucleus and a longer exposure high¬ 
lighting the comet's jets. Stardust 
mission scientists expected "a dirty, 
black, fluffy snowball" with a couple 
of jets that would be dispersed into a 
halo. Instead they found more than 
two dozen jets that "remained 
intact"—they did not disperse in the 
fashion of a gas in a vacuum. Some 
of the jets emanated from the dark 
unheated side of the comet—an 
anomaly no one had expected. 

Plasma Cosmology—The Leading Edge of Science 

Two early twentieth century pioneers whose work leads to a 
deeper understanding of plasma and electricity are Sweden’s Kris¬ 
tian Birkeland and America’s Irving Langmuir. Experiments 
inspired by Birkeland’s work showed how current filaments in 
plasma join in entwined pairs, now called “Birkeland currents.” 
(See illustration and discussion, page 24.) Langmuir’s experimental 
work gave rise to the word "plasma," due to the life-like behavior of 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

this conductive medium, and he demonstrated how the plasma 
“sheath” insulates a charged sphere from its plasma environment. 
This sheath is now crucial to the understanding of the so-called 
"magnetospheres" of planets, though few astronomers take into 
account the electrical implications. 

One of the most respected innovators was Nobel Laureate 
Hannes Alfven, honored as the father of “plasma cosmology,” an 
approach to cosmic evolution based on electric forces. It was 
Alfven who developed the first models of galactic structure and star 
formation rooted in the dynamics of electrified plasma, and his 
challenges to the “pure mathematics” of modern cosmology arose 
from experimental evidence that has grown increasingly persuasive 
in recent years. 

Alfven’s close colleague, Anthony Peratt, later extended his 
investigation, conducting experiments with far-reaching implica¬ 
tions for the understanding of galaxies, stars, and the evolution of 
planetary systems. From graduate school until Alfven's death in 
1995, Peratt worked with the pioneer to define the frontiers of 
plasma cosmology, a subject highlighted in the physicist Eric 
Lemer’s popular book, The Big Bang Never Happened. Peratt’s 

Plasma scientist Anthony Peratt. 

RIGHT: Snapshots from a computer 
simulation by Peratt, illustrate the 
evolution of galactic structures. 
Through the “pinch effect,” parallel 
currents converge to produce spi¬ 
raling structures. 

work included unprecedented three-dimensional simulations of gal¬ 
axy evolution and of other plasma structures in space. Today he is 
internationally recognized as an authority on plasma discharge 
instabilities and their three-dimensional simulation 

Using equations that describe the interactions of electric and 
magnetic fields (Maxwell-Lorentz equations), Peratt developed a 
super computer program to mimic the effects of electric discharge 
within a large volume of charged particles. His "Particle in Cell" 
(PIC) simulations have produced formations that are virtually indis¬ 
tinguishable from the energetic patterns of actual galaxies, as can 
be seen in the graphic below. 



Anthony Peratt’s “Particle in Cell” 
(PIC) simulations have demon¬ 
strated the way electric forces gen¬ 
erate galactic structure. In the 
examples of three galaxies shown 
here, the simulated energy pat¬ 
terns match observed patterns with 
surprising accuracy. 

Peratt’s book The Physics of the Plasma Universe has led the 
way to a new understanding of high-energy plasma behavior and 
the role of electricity in the cosmos. Due in large part to the Coali¬ 
tion of Plasma Science, of which Peratt is a member, the Institute of 
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world's largest scientific 
and technical society, announced that it would recognize “Plasma 
Cosmology” as an official discipline in science. 

Plasma Discharge Inscribed on Stone 

For over three decades Peratt’s laboratory research concentrated 
on the unstable formations that develop in high-energy plasma dis¬ 
charge, and he recorded the evolution of these configurations 
through dozens of phases. Some of the most elaborate discharge 
forms are now called “Peratt Instabilities” because he was the first 
to document them. 

His most recent work has taken him in a new direction, and the 
results offer the strongest link between plasma science and things 
once seen in the sky. In September, 2000, in response to communi¬ 
cations with the authors of this monograph, Peratt became intrigued 
by the striking similarity of ancient rock art to plasma discharge 

These rock art examples of the 
“squatter man” from around the 
world illustrate one of the many 
global patterns. Samples gathered 
by Anthony Peratt. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Peratt’s graphic representation of a 
plasma configuration produced in 
laboratory experiments. The geom¬ 
etry relates directly to the rock art 
“squatter man” discussed on these 

formations. Suddenly he was seeing, carved on stone by the tens of 
thousands, the very forms he had documented in the laboratory. The 
correlations were so precise—down to the finest details—that they 
could not be accidental. The artists were recording heaven-span¬ 
ning discharge formations above them. 

In his investigation of rock art themes, Peratt concentrated his 
field work in the American Southwest and Northwest, but he also 
gathered data internationally. For his on-site study he used GPS 
longitude and latitude positions, always noting the probable orien¬ 
tation or field of view. A team of about 30 volunteers, including 
specialists from several fields, assisted Peratt in the investigation, 
and he has since gathered more than 25,000 rock art images. While 
the recorded formations correspond to nothing visible in the heav¬ 
ens today, they accurately depict the evolution of plasma instabili¬ 
ties. Peratt reports that "some 87 different categories of plasma 
instabilities have been identified among the archaic petroglyphs and 
there exists nearly none whose whole or parts do not fit this delin¬ 

A plasma instability found globally in rock art is a stick figure 
with a circle or dot on each side of its torso. In plasma experiments, 
this “squatter man” configuration appears when a disk or donut-like 
torus is bent by magnetic fields induced by the current flow. From 
the viewpoint of the observer, the edges of the upper disk may 
appear to point up (forming "arms") and those of the lower torus 
may appear to point down (forming "legs"). The underlying “hour¬ 
glass” pattern, with many subtle variations, occurs around the 

Virtually all of the variations in the ancient drawings corre¬ 
spond to known evolutionary aspects of the basic plasma form. To 
appreciate the potential evolution, it is essential that one visualize 
the configuration three dimensionally, as illustrated by the idealiza¬ 
tion of the form below— 

A three-dimensional idealized repre¬ 
sentation of the transparent “hour¬ 
glass” discharge pattern, together 
with a white-on-black image of the 
same configuration. Were such a 
formation to have appeared in the 
ancient sky, a rock drawing of it 
would probably look like the image 
on the right, similar to the “squatter 
man of worldwide rock art. 



The graphic image of the discharge configuration above utilizes 
a tonal gradient to indicate the structure of a transparent plasma 
discharge, where this structure would not be self evident in a rendi¬ 
tion carved on rock. 

Our idealized formation shows slight variations between the 
upward-pointing and downward-pointing components, consistent 
with common variations in the laboratory and in rock art. The upper 
“champaign glass” form results from a distortion of a flattened tor¬ 
oidal disk as the edges curve upward. In the warping of the disk 
below, the downward curvature is interrupted at the extremity, 
which bends outward to create a “squashed bell” appearance. The 
rock art images given on page 21 include other variations as well. 

Often, the “arms” and “legs” of the “squatter man” are more 
squared than in our graphic representation here (examples on right), 
but this variation too is characteristic of laboratory discharge. 

Our illustration of the hourglass discharge form accents the cen¬ 
tral torus and its visual relationship to the two symmetrical dots or 
circles seen in the corresponding rock art images. But many other 
nuances of such discharge configurations must be taken into 
account. It is unlikely that this torus would have always been visi¬ 
ble, for example, and a great number of “squatter man” rock art 
images do not display the two dots or spheres. Also, the warping of 
the upward and downward extremities of the hourglass form can 
occur in almost limitless variations. A more comprehensive treat¬ 
ment of this subject would require systematic analysis of the global 
variations in the rock art forms, comparing the wide-ranging pat¬ 
terns to the implied discharge evolution. 

A New Approach to Rock Art 

Examples of the “Squatter man” 
figures, with twin dots or circles of 
the left and right, from the Ameri¬ 
can southwest. 

Peratt’s findings are particularly significant in their contrast to 
traditional explanations of rock art. The majority of rock art author¬ 
ities, particularly those with primary interest in Native American 
sources, argue that only images of the sun, moon, and stars reflect 
actual celestial phenomena. Apart from such associations, most 
authorities claim that global patterns do not exist. Peratt’s investi¬ 
gations say the opposite, confirming numerous universal patterns of 
rock art. Through massive labors, some apparently taking whole 
lifetimes according to Peratt, the ancient artists recorded immense 
discharge phenomena in the heavens. 

Following an intensive investigation, Peratt began summarizing 
his findings. He wondered if the ancient artists might have wit¬ 
nessed an episode of high-energy plasma incursion into Earth’s 
atmosphere, what he called an "enhanced aurora." His first article, 
“Characteristics for the Occurrence of a High-Current, Z-Pinch 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Electric currents in plasma naturally 
form filaments due to the squeezing 
or "pinch effect" of the surrounding 
self-generated toroidal magnetic 
field. Complex electromagnetic 
interactions cause the filaments to 
rotate about each other to form a 
“Birkeland Current” pair. In high 
energy discharge sequences these 
rotating currents can evolve vio¬ 
lently into a stack of disks or 
toruses around the discharge axis. 

ABOVE: Graphic illustration of the 
stacked toruses in the Peratt Insta¬ 
bility on the left. Computer simula¬ 
tion of the experimental results on 
the right. 

Aurora as recorded in Antiquity,” was published by the Institute of 
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, in its Transactions on Plasma 
Science for December 2003. Here he states his conclusion forth¬ 
rightly: the recurring petroglyph patterns “are reproductions of 
plasma phenomena in space.” 

Stacked Toruses 

In laboratory experiments and in computer simulations, Peratt 
demonstrated how electric forces in a plasma discharge generate 
rapidly changing configurations. One of the most common and fas¬ 
cinating patterns is a stack of disks or toruses (donut-like rings) 
around a central axis, a configuration that evolves through many 
variations. This dynamic sequence culminates in a highly energetic 
collapse. But according to Peratt, the prior phases of the stacked 
toruses are relatively stable and numerous variations were inscribed 
on stone everywhere in the world. 

The discharge sequence leading to the stacked toruses begins 
with two braided current filaments ("Birkeland currents," named 
after Kristian Birkeland), as illustrated on the left. Under the mag¬ 
netic forces generated by the currents, the two filaments tend to 
draw closer. As they do so, they rotate about each other faster and 
faster. If the current is strong enough, it may "pinch off" in what is 
known as a "sausage" instability, forming a series of cells that look 
like a string of sausages or a string of pearls. 

The sausage “links” then form spheroids that evolve into disks 
or toruses (thick rings or “donuts”) of electrical current circling the 
initial line current (two images on the right). This formation 
remains stable for a relatively long period, accreting matter at the 
center of each torus. 

As the sequence progresses, the disks or toruses will flatten and 
the outer edges will begin to curve upward or downward like the 
rims of a saucepan. To an observer looking through the transparent 
toruses they will have the appearance of stacked “arms” or “legs” 
strung along the axis of the discharge. Of such a configuration, 
thousands of examples exist around the world. 

Eventually the formation reaches a threshold point and explo¬ 
sively breaks apart. This culminating phase of the discharge 
sequence is so energetic that direct human observation of such a 
configuration close to Earth would likely be deadly. 

Nevertheless, an exceedingly rare but precise replication of this 
phase is given in a petroglyph from Kayenta, Arizona (above). 
When Peratt received this image from one of the authors (Talbott), 



he had no doubt of its significance. The configuration’s unique fea¬ 
tures make the plasma explanation definitive, Peratt reported. 


Plasma Column 
(Birkeland Currents) 

Diocotron Instability 

torus (plasmoid) 

Pictograph from Kayenta, Arizona. 

The upper terminus shows the twin filaments of tightly bound 
Birkeland currents of the plasma column below. In high energy dis¬ 
charge, the terminal filaments typically flare out as the discharge 
column evolves. The flat disks or toruses with upturned edges 
(“saucepan” formations) are typical of diocotron instabilities, rap¬ 
idly revolving plasma contained and configured by magnetic fields. 
At the “base” of the formation is a larger, thicker and transparent 
torus, permitting the observer to see through the inner shells, pre¬ 
senting a view that might be compared to an automobile tire cut in 
half and viewed edge on. 

Peratt writes— 

Six flattened tori [toruses] are depicted ... whose features can be 
shown to be exact in detail. The spacing and the shape of the ‘bars’ as 
well as the fine structure at the tips of the disks are precise. Slight cur¬ 
vature in the ‘bars’ indicates that state transition is imminent. It 
should also be noted that the lowest disk is about one-half the size of 
the stack above. The stack also opens out slightly in the direction of 

ABOVE: illustration of the suggested 
three-dimensional appearance of 
the plasma form that inspired the 
Kayenta petroglyph on the left. 

ABOVE: In this Australian rock art 
image, the upper twin filaments 
have spawned secondary radial fil¬ 
aments, a characteristic feature of 
intense plasma discharge. 

LEFT: These enigmatic rock art 
images from the American south¬ 
west represent a few of the thou¬ 
sands of examples capturing the 
complex evolution of toroidal for¬ 
mations, or “Peratt Instabilities.” 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

the terminus. The geometrical shape of the terminus ... is an exact 
representation of experimental data. 

Peratt reports that this pictograph represents "the onset of a cha¬ 
otic change of state." This is the most energetic phase, meaning that 
humans would have needed to shield themselves from the intense 
radiation at all cost. It is not surprising that direct pictorial repre¬ 
sentations of this phase are almost non-existent, in contrast to ear¬ 
lier phases recorded by the tens of thousands. 

Eye Mask 

A key component in the Kayenta pictograph above is the "eye 
mask" seen at the base of the image. For decades this elementary 
form has intrigued symbolists and rock art specialists, but no con¬ 
sensus was ever reached as to its meaning. 

Peratt’s computer simulations of 
the plasma torus reveal the dynam¬ 
ics of the ancient “eye mask” form, 
while also giving a new perspective 
on the “owl” in cross-cultural sym¬ 
bolism (below). 

ABOVE: “eye mask” formation stands 
in intimate connection to the arche¬ 
type of the mother goddess, often 
called the “eye goddess” and some¬ 
times taking the form of an “owl.” 
Here we see the owl form of the 
Greek goddess Athene. 

RIGHT: drawings of the “eye mask” 
from Easter Island. 

Occurrences of the "eye mask" on stone and in ancient art range 
from Easter Island in the southern hemisphere to North America, 
Europe, ancient Mesopotamia, and elsewhere. If primitive artists 
were recording something they saw in the sky, then there can be no 
doubt that it was seen from both hemispheres. 



Peratt immediately identified the eye mask as a "low opacity 
torus,” or thick ring, seen from a vantage-point not too far from the 
plane of the torus. The most intense currents in a plasma torus are 
concentrated at the center and surrounded by a number of concen¬ 
tric "shells." Because the outer shells have a low opacity, an 
observer can see deeply inside the torus. The center of the torus 
cross-section becomes more visible at optical wavelengths as the 
outer plasma shells become less opaque. In addition, the torus tends 
to flatten with increasing current, a characteristic revealed by innu¬ 
merable instances of the eye mask globally and as seen in the 
ancient Sumerian symbols of the goddess Inanna (right) and the 
Native American “She Who Watches” below— 

“Eye-idols” of the Sumerian god¬ 
dess Inanna. 

“She Who Watches,” a popular eye 
goddess of the Columbia River 
region in the northwestern U.S. 

A “Complete Match” 

Peratt was impressed not only by the precise accord of rock art 
images to experimental and simulated forms, but also by the 
detailed correspondences between images in different parts of the 
world. He only needed to adjust for the different lines of sight to 
obtain remarkably accurate overlays. An example of this is seen 
below, in a category of images Peratt calls the "Stonehenge" type. 
Here, Peratt overlays a "Wandjina" pictograph in Northeastern Aus¬ 
tralia (1) with a carved granite petroglyph in northeastern Arizona 
(2). To adjust for divergent lines of sight, he digitally tilted the latter 
45.3 degrees. Then the fit was perfect (3), despite the fact that the 
radiating streamers in the two images were not symmetrical. 

The overlay is so exact that the only way I could illustrate this was to 
extrude the Arizona petroglyph (in white) and lay a flat black Wand- 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

jina on top. That is, everywhere you see black on white, even the 
edges, is the overlay. This technique still does not do the overlay jus¬ 
tice .... My claim that at least a lifetime was spent carving some of 
these petroglyphs in granite with stone instruments is based on both 
the overlay factor and comparison to experimental data. 

The presence of identical images around the world is a common 
theme in Peratt’s cataloging of ancient art. "An appreciable number 
of the categories contain petroglyphs that overlay to the degree that 
they are ‘cookie cutter’ templates of each other," he states. Through 
computer processing his data enable him to project what was seen 
in the sky in three dimensions. The pictographs themselves can be 
arranged to form animation cells, enabling him to produce an ani¬ 
mation of the laboratory sequences using only the pictographs—a 
complete match between the images on stone and the complex evo¬ 
lution of the plasma instabilities. 

It now appears that dating of the events is also possible. Where 
various figures have been painted on stone and the pigments have 
leached into the rock, leaving a residue that is still present, a tech¬ 
nique called “plasma extraction” may yield valuable estimates as to 
when the events occurred. Indeed, Peratt exudes confidence on the 
matter, saying that if plasma scientists can cross reference the dates 
from plasma extraction with laboratory data on the discharge 
sequence, "extracting dates seems certain." He presently estimates 
that the 87 categories generally fall in a range from 7,000 BC to 
3,000 BC. This brings the rock art expressions directly in line with 
the formative phase of the first civilizations, raising profound ques¬ 
tions about the antique cultures. What were the cosmic influences 
shaping human imagination in this enigmatic period of human his¬ 

Today, more than a dozen qualified individuals, constituting an 
interdisciplinary nucleus, are working to reconstruct details of the 
ancient celestial dramas. Though the individuals come from diverse 
fields of inquiry, all agree that the accord between ancient images 
and plasma configurations is too detailed and too specific to be 
explained as accidental convergence. All have concluded that 



immense discharge formations appeared in the sky of ancient wit¬ 
nesses and that the violent evolution of these formations must have 
instilled overwhelming terror. 

A New Approach 

In the present inquiry science and historical testimony con¬ 
verge, requiring a radical reassessment of each in the light of the 
other. Laboratory experiments not only offer a new perspective on 
the physical universe, they connect the leading edge of science to a 
critical phase of human history. Disciplines that previously devel¬ 
oped in isolation now require interdisciplinary communication. The 
physical sciences on the one hand, and the study of archaic human 
memories on the other, are brought into alignment by questioning 
the assumptions that have affected both. What, for example, can the 
reconstructed plasma formations tell us about the origins of ancient 
religions, mythology, and symbolism? How might they explain the 
mystery to which we alluded in the first pages of this monograph— 
the recurring themes of the mother goddess, the hero, and the chaos 

Our hope is that doors will open to more holistic approaches 
within the sciences, encouraging even specialists, confident in their 
long-held assumptions, to wonder again about our universe, the 
evolution of Earth, and the influence of cosmic events on human 


“On the mountainside Anzu and Ninurta met.. .Clouds of death 
rained down, an arrow flashed lightning. Whizzed the battle force 
roared between them. 

“Anzu Epic,” tablet 2, in S. Dailey, Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford - New York, 
1989), p. 21. 

Chapter Two 


If Anthony Peratt’s conclusions are correct, then only a few 
thousand years ago the terrestrial sky was ablaze with electrical 

The ramifications of this possibility will directly affect 
our understanding of cultural roots. What was the impact of 
the recorded events on the first civilizations? What was the 
relationship to the origins of world mythology, to the birth of 
the early religions, or to monumental construction in ancient 

The relatively sudden appearance of the rock art themes 
discussed in the previous chapter interrupted an earlier 
phase in the evolution of artistic expression. In the remote 
Paleolithic epoch, we see remarkable human skill in repre¬ 
senting the natural world. Many observers have marveled at 
the realism of primitive depictions on the walls of caves in 
Europe and elsewhere, showing antelope and bison and 
other animal and plant forms, with great attention to natural 
detail. Many of the most impressive examples are conven¬ 
tionally dated around twenty to thirty thousand years ago. 

Later, however, in close connection to the beginnings of 
civilization, we observe an explosion of human energy 
devoted to the utterly fantastic: cosmic serpents and drag¬ 
ons, winged bulls in the sky, mountains, towers, and stair¬ 
ways reaching to the center of heaven, “sun” disks with 
heaven-spanning wings, cosmic “ships” sailing about the 
sky. In fact, most researchers have grown so used to these 
preposterous images that only rarely do they pause to notice 
the enigma. How did it happen that human consciousness shifted 
from artistic accuracy and natural representation in the more “prim¬ 
itive” (Paleolithic) stage, to such bold “defiance of nature” in a later 
(Neolithic) stage? From any conventional vantage point, a collapse 
of artistic “skill” also occurred. 

But now, there is reason to believe that rock art can illuminate a 
critical turn in human history. Before the work of Peratt, many of 
the petroglyphs appeared to be little more than “stick figures” with 

UPPER: Paleolithic cave painting 
of a horse, Lascaux, France. 
LOWER: Images such as these 
carved on stone in the southwest¬ 
ern U.S., accent the enigma: the 
task of chiseling such images 
required an immense investment 
of human time and energy, yet the 
forms appear to be little more 
than doodling. Plasma physics 
will tell us otherwise, however. 

Thunderbolts of the Gods 

preposterous attributes, all easily dismissed as random “hallucina¬ 
tion” or “doodling.” Peratt’s work assures us that the basic forms 
have a direct explanation in plasma science. 

There is also a provable connection to the evolution of mythical 
archetypes. Archaic rock art depictions came first, but were fol¬ 
lowed by an outpouring of conceptual elaborations, as ancient art¬ 
ists gave imaginative expression to the celestial forms and events 
that inspired the myth-making epoch. Both the rock artists and the 
myth-makers had true perils on their minds. The rock artists 
recorded and the myth-makers interpreted electrical events in the 
sky, as plasma discharge sequences moved through discrete phases, 
some of celestial beauty, others intensely violent and terrifying. 

Our world was once a vastly different place—that is the mes¬ 
sage written on stone and concealed within the archetypes of world 
mythology. It is only necessary that we see past the imaginative 
expressions to the events behind them. What were the events that 
provoked an explosion of human imagination prior to the rise of 
civilization? All of the archetypes are, in fact, extraordinary. And 
not one, when traced to its roots, answers to familiar events in our 
sky today. 

The Dragon, the Hero, and the Thunderbolt 

"Hercules Battling Achelous," the 
Louvre, Paris, France. 

As if speaking with a single voice, ancient cultures declare that 
fantastic beasts once roamed the heavens and the gods went to war. 
In the story’s most common form, the upheaval began when a great 
serpent or dragon attacked the world, bringing darkness and univer¬ 
sal devastation. A legendary warrior then set out to engage the mon¬ 
ster in direct combat. The battle raged amid earthquake, fire, wind, 
and falling stone, and it appeared that all would be lost. Then the 
hero’s magical weapon, fashioned by gods or divine assistants, flew 
between the combatants, turning the tide of battle and vanquishing 
the monster. 

From this encounter, the ancestral warrior earned his title as 
"hero." He defeated chaos and saved the world from catastrophe. 
But how did the divine weapon accomplish this feat? The storytell¬ 
ers’ own words and symbols, when traced to root meanings, make 
clear that the hero’s weapon was no ordinary sword, arrow, or club. 
It was a thunderbolt —and not the familiar lightning of a regional 
storm, but a bolt of cosmic dimensions. Though this original iden¬ 
tity may not be apparent in many of the later versions of the story, it 
can be confirmed through cross-cultural comparison, with closest 
attention to the memory’s more archaic forms. When the great civi¬ 
lizations of the ancient world arose, the dragon, the hero, and the 
cosmic thunderbolt already dominated human consciousness. 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

The Great Serpent Typhon 

Greek poets, historians, and philosophers often spoke of the 
great dragon Typhon, Typhaon, or Typhoeus whose attack nearly 
destroyed the world. 1 

Our oldest source for the Typhon story is Hesiod, whose 
account is tentatively dated to the eighth century B.C. In his Theog- 
ony, "The Origins of the Gods," Hesiod sets the stage against a 
backdrop of cosmic turmoil in the formative phase of earth history. 
Typhon was the child of Gaea and Tartarus, conceived after Zeus 
had driven from heaven the former rulers of the sky, the Titans. At 
birth, the monster sprouted a hundred snake heads spitting fire and 
venom, their whistles, roars and bellows, and every sort of horrible 
sound shaking heaven to its foundations. 

Without the intervention of Zeus, the poet says, the great dragon 
would have become the master of gods and of mortals. To meet the 
monster, Zeus rose with a clap of thunder. Then "the earth groaned 
beneath him, and the heat and blaze from both of them were on the 
dark-faced sea, from the thunder and lightning of Zeus and from the 
flame of the monster, from his blazing bolts and from the scorch 
and breath of his stormwinds. 

The power of Zeus lay in his lightning-weapons: 

...Seizing his weapons, thunder, lightning, and the glowering thun¬ 
derbolt, he made a leap from Olympos, and struck, setting fire to all 
those wonderful heads set about on the dreaded monster. Then, when 
Zeus had put him down with his strokes, Typhon crashed crippled, 
and the gigantic earth groaned beneath him, and the flame from the 
great lord so thunder-smitten ran out... and a great part of the gigan¬ 
tic earth burned in the wonderful wind of his heat... and melted in the 
flash of the blazing fire. 

Over the centuries scholars have wondered what natural experi¬ 
ence could have provoked tales of an earth-threatening event in 
which the agent of destruction is a serpent or dragon. Was the story 
a fabulous echo of ancestral confrontations, when early races strug¬ 
gled to subdue creatures of the desert or swamp? 3 Or did the story 
capture, in the archaic language of myth, a traumatic event—per¬ 
haps an eruption from a nearby volcano, or a hurricane or tornado? 4 
Some have suggested that the Greek memory of Typhon points to a 
particularly frightful comet approaching the earth. 5 The ancient 
Roman scholar Pliny mentions the appearance of a "terrible comet" 
or a "ball of fire" during the reign of a legendary Egyptian king 
named Typhon. 6 

But these naturalistic speculations take the ancient stories one 
at a time, in isolation, and too frequently disregard the parallels 
within and between cultures. Hesiod’s version offers many clues 
that can be followed backward to the earlier religions of the Medi- 

Greek vase painting depicts Zeus’ 
conquest of Typhon. 


What is 

For several millennia dragons have occupied 
the minds of storytellers the world over, and 
modern theories, explanations, and rationaliza¬ 
tions are as abundant as the cultural variations on 
the theme. 

Our word for "dragon" comes from the Latin 
draco, the Greek drakon, related to the verb 
derkomai, "to see." In many cultures the dragon 
appears as the "seer" or "watcher," 
the guardian of the sacred pre¬ 
cinct. But such concepts hold little 
meaning for the modern mind. To 
recover the fullness of the original 
idea, we must explore notions 
long forgotten or easily distorted 
as the myth-making epoch receded 
into a remote past. 

For those who seek to identify 
the dragon zoologically, the mon¬ 
ster is forever elusive. No such 
biological species ever existed. 

That itself is part of the mystery, 
since the dragon is an archetype of 
global distribution. The closest kin 
is the serpent. Although it is often 
impossible to distinguish between 
the two symbols, much evidence suggests that it 
was the mythic serpent that gave the dragon its 
common reptilian features. Yet we find other ani¬ 
mal features attached to the monster as well, 
including hair, wings, or feathers, a fact that can 
only underscore the many dragon paradoxes. 

Literary references to dragons often suggest 
that they lived far from the homes of those tell¬ 

ing the stories. Yet for thousands of years, cul¬ 
tures the world over lived in the shadow of the 
dragon, fearing the return of the dragon-borne 
catastrophe recounted in their myths. Even in 
our own day, the symbols of that anxiety clutter 
human consciousness, visiting us in nightmares, 
erupting as apocalyptic visions, or dancing by as 
the anachronisms of our holiday celebrations. 

To find the roots of the theme, 
we must follow it back to the earli¬ 
est recorded images. When the 
great civilizations emerged, ser¬ 
pents and dragons were already 
commonplace and the core themes 
well established. Of these themes, 
none endured more persistently 
than the combat between the 
dragon and a far-famed warrior. 

The dragon, it seems, has a 
long ancestry indeed, one tracing 
to prehistoric events that became 
increasingly difficult for later 
story-tellers to comprehend. But 
how might our ideas about dragons 
change, were we to see past all 
later adaptations of the theme to 
the core of the original human experience? Is it 
possible to consider the question through the 
eyes of human witnesses ? 

TOP: Greek serpent-dragon Typhon, whose attack 
nearly destroyed the world before he was vanquished 
by Zeus. CENTER: A “friendlier” Chinese dragon dis¬ 
playing lighting-like emanations. 

Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

Typhon as three-headed monster 
with entwined serpent-tails. 

terranean, the Near East, and beyond. By this line of investigation, 
we see how the cosmic serpents and dragons of archetypal mythol¬ 
ogy were progressively diminished and localized through regional 

The hero’s combat with the chaos-serpent or dragon is a global 
theme of the ancient cultures, and a failure to recognize this fact 
will doom any attempt to comprehend the Typhon story. A ludi¬ 
crous monster alien to all natural experience today, but given cos¬ 
mic proportions, is indigenous to all cultures’ mythologies. The 
creature is a flaming, bearded, feathered, or long-haired serpent, 
often embellished with multiple heads and mouths, whose writhing 
form appears in the sky as chaos and darkness overtake the world. 
The power and consistency of the images persist across millennia of 
human history, and the collective memory cannot be rationalized 
away. What human experience produced the myth of the dragon? 
Who was the hero? And what was the cosmic thunderbolt, the 
weapon that left the monster, in the poets’ words, "thunderstruck," 
or "lightning-scarred"? 

Chaos and the Primeval Rebellion 

In ancient Egypt, the serpent Apep was the archenemy of the 
creator Ra, and his plotting against Ra produced a tempest in the 
heavens. Harking back to these events, numerous Egyptian rites 
commemorated the victory of Ra over Apep. At the temple of Ra in 
Heliopolis the priests ritually trod underfoot images of Apep to rep¬ 
resent his defeat at the hands of the supreme god. At the temple of 
Edfu, a series of reliefs depict the warrior Horus and his followers 
vanquishing Apep, or his counterpart Set, cutting to pieces the mon¬ 
ster’s companions, the "fiends of darkness." It is worth noting as 
well that the Greeks translated Set as Typhon. 

In Hindu legends the great warrior Indra, the most revered god 
of the Vedas, employed lightning in his combat with the monstrous 
Vritra or Ahi—a giant serpent who had swallowed both the cosmic 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Hindu vajra, the cosmic thunder¬ 

"waters" and the sun, leaving the world in darkness and despair. 
"Indra, whose hand wielded thunder, rent piecemeal Ahi who 
barred up the waters..." 8 "Loud roared the mighty hero’s bolt of 
thunder, when he, the friend of man, burnt up the monster." 9 "More¬ 
over, when thou first wast bom, o Indra, thou struckest terror into 
all the people. Thou, Maghavan, rentest with thy bolt the dragon 
who lay against the water floods of heaven." 10 

The Hebrews, too, preserved an enduring memory of Yahweh’s 
battle against a dragon of the deep, marked by lightning on a cos¬ 
mic scale. "The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the light¬ 
nings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook." 11 Here 
the adversary was alternately named Rahab, Leviathan, Tannin, or 
Behemoth—dragon-like forms representing both the waters of 
chaos and the rebellion of the "evil land" vanquished by Yahweh in 
primeval times. 12 

The battle is echoed in Job 26— 

The pillars of heaven shook and were astounded at his roar. By his 
power he stilled the sea, and by his understanding he smote Rahab 
.. .By his wind the heavens were made fair, his hand pierced the twist¬ 
ing serpent... Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways; and how 
small a whisper do we hear of him... But the thunder of his power 
who can understand ?" 13 

The Hebrew accounts reflect a connection to early Canaanite 
traditions in which the lightning-wielding god Baal defeated the 
monster Lotan, whose name is a linguistic cognate of Leviathan. 14 

Marduk’s dragon with serpent head, 
leonine front feet, avian hind feet, 
and scorpion's tail. Though distin¬ 
guished from Tiamat, it cannot be 
entirely separated from her. 

Marduk and the Resplendent Dragon 

When the Babylonians, the world’s first astronomers, looked 
back to the age of the gods, they spoke incessantly of disaster. The 
astronomer priests recounted the events of a former time, 
when the dragon Tiamat assaulted the world and it appeared 
that heaven itself would fall into chaos. The "resplendent 
dragon" spawned a horde of dark powers with "irresistible 
weapons"—"monster serpents, sharp-toothed, with fang 
unsparing," their bodies filled with poison for blood. "Fierce 
dragons she has draped with terror, crowned with flame and 
made like gods ... so that whoever looks upon them shall 
perish with fear." 15 This was not a disaster on a local scale, 
but a universal disaster—a catastrophe so great that the gods 
themselves were immobilized by fear, and even Anu, the 
sovereign of the sky, fled the scene in terror. 

The protagonist in this narrative is the god Marduk. When all 
else had failed, it was Marduk who rose to confront Tiamat and her 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

Babylonian cylinder seals depicted 
the subdued dragon as the vehicle 
or carrier of the god, a common 
theme in the ancient world. 

companions. The god took possession of his "matchless weapons" 

In front of him he set the lightning, 
With a blazing flame he filled his body. 

Mounted on his storm-chariot and turbaned with a "fearsome 
halo," the god set his course toward the raging Tiamat. On the 
approach of Marduk, the dragon-goddess was "like one possessed; 
she took leave of her senses. In fury Tiamat cried out aloud..." 

Then joined issue Tiamat and Marduk, wisest of gods, 

They swayed in single combat, locked in battle. 

The lord spread out his net to enfold her, 

The Evil Wind, which followed behind, he let loose in her face. 

When Tiamat opened her mouth to consume him, 

He drove in the Evil Wind that she close not her lips. 

As the fierce winds charged her belly, 

Her body was distended and her mouth was wide open. 

He released the arrow, it tore her belly, 

It cut through her insides, splitting the heart. 

Having thus subdued her, he extinguished her life. 

In the Babylonian cylinder seals 
below, the thunderbolt of Marduk 
appears as an arrow launched 
against Tiamat. The “trident” form 
of the arrow/thunderbolt is a mys¬ 
tery yet to be resolved by special¬ 


The Kingship of Gods and Heroes 

What was the kingship of the warrior-god? No 
one seems to know why every ancient tribe and 
nation revered a former generation of heroic, semi¬ 
divine conquerors. Within western cultures the pre¬ 
eminent example of the hero is the Greek Heracles 
(right), the Roman Hercules, whose labors to free 
ancient lands of destructive monsters qualified him as 

The son of Zeus and the “mortal” Alcmene of 
Thebes, as an infant he is said to have strangled two 
serpents sent by the goddess Hera. Later he made a 
career of battling chaos powers, from the Nemean 
lion to the seven-headed Hydra. 

The mysteries surrounding such popular heroes 
can only be resolved by finding the historic anteced¬ 
ents. While Greek poets celebrated Heracles as a 
great “man,” his feats and personality direct our 
attention back in time to the exploits of earlier war¬ 
rior-gods such as the Egyptian Horns (below). 

In this detective work surprises will arise at every 

Ancient Egypt, one of the oldest civilizations in 
the world, offers many clues as to the nature of the 
warrior-hero archetype. Standing well above all 
other Egyptian warrior gods is Horns (left), whose 
battles with the dark powers Set and Apep colored 
every dimension of Egyptian culture. 

One fact beyond dispute is that Horns was origi¬ 
nally a cosmic power, whose victory over the 
destroyer Set provided every pharaoh with the celes¬ 
tial model for the warrior-king on earth. 

Across the centuries, however, Egyptian story¬ 
tellers gradually reduced Horns to human dimen¬ 
sions, treating his adventures as local history. This 
evolutionary principle will prove to be a valuable 
clue as to the nature of the great heroes honored by 
later cultures. Indeed, in many ways, the feats of the 
Greek Heracles mirror those of Horns and other 
warrior gods of the ancient Near East. 

Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

He cast down her carcass to stand upon it. 

After he had slain Tiamat, the leader, 

Her band was shattered, her troupe broken up . 16 

In this way Marduk vanquished the dragon and her brood. Upon 
his victory the god established a new cosmic order, the body of the 
dragon providing the raw material for a great city of the gods. 17 

In their annual Akitu festival the Babylonians reenacted both 
Tiamat’s attack and the god Marduk’s subjugation of the monster. 
Commemorative rites such as these were, in fact, the model for 
ancient New Year’s celebrations throughout the Near East, with 
numerous counterparts amongst ancient cultures the world over, all 
harking back to the primeval destruction and renewal of the 
world. 18 

The Myth of the Divine Thunderbolt 

A thunderstorm can be a terrifying event. The lightning flash 
and thunderclap may indeed awaken a primal fear, perhaps instill¬ 
ing a newfound empathy for the mythmakers of antiquity. In the 
presence of a thunderstorm, was it not natural for our ancestors to 
envisage lightning-beasts roaring in the heavens or celestial armies 
hurling lightning-spears across the sky? 

Common suppositions have prevented investigators from exam¬ 
ining the underlying patterns of lightning symbolism. Cross-cul¬ 
tural comparison reveals numerous global images of lightning in 
ancient times, but these are a far cry from the phenomena we expe¬ 
rience today. The lightning of the gods altered the order of the heav¬ 
ens and the history of the world. 

Ancient chroniclers employed a wide range of natural and man¬ 
made symbols to describe the cosmic "thunderbolt." The breadth of 
images will make no sense until we find a new vantage point, one 
permitting us to discern the archetype, the original form that pre¬ 
ceded the symbols and gave them their mythological context. Ter¬ 
restrial lightning was but one of many hieroglyphs used to describe 
the celebrated weapon of gods and heroes. 

Here the distinction between archetype and symbol becomes 
crucial. Viewed in isolation from the archetype, the symbol presents 
blatant contradictions; when illuminated by the archetype, it 
acquires integrity. The symbol can then be seen in reference to 
something once visible in the sky, but no longer present. From this 
new vantage point, the investigator can subject the implied human 
experience to rational and scientific tests. 

To confront the symbols under discussion is to meet the deepest 
fear of humanity, the Doomsday anxiety, the expectation that a prior 
world-threatening disaster will occur again. Doomsday arrived sud- 

Statue of the god Marduk with his 

The Babylonian seven-headed 
dragon, a familiar but enigmatic 
theme in ancient times. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Greek coins shown on this and 
the following page depict the 
thunderbolt of Zeus with many 
variations, Yet certain patterns 
stand out, and none seem to 
suggest the familiar form of light¬ 
ning today. 

denly and without mercy, and across the millennia the memory of 
catastrophe haunted every culture on earth. The historic impact of 
the memory is, in fact, evidence for the events implied by cross-cul¬ 
tural testimony. As remarked by the Greek poet Sophocles, the 
thunderbolt of Zeus always meant disaster: the terrifying bolt 
"never shoots forth for nothing, nor without catastrophe." 19 

To offset this anxiety, each tribe or nation cherished its own 
account of the ancestral warrior, the bearer of lightning and thunder 
and the victor in the primeval contest. The combat story, told in 
thousands of variations, gave the early cultures their celestial mod¬ 
els for war and defense. Through ritual and symbolic imitation, cul¬ 
tures sought magical protection against chaos. Thus, the narratives, 
symbols, pictures, hymns, rites, and commemorative monuments 
offer countless clues as to the nature of the upheaval and the magi¬ 
cal “weapons” featured at the most critical juncture. What were the 
thunderbolts of the gods? 

To illustrate the scale of the enigma, we list below seven of the 
most common lightning themes recurring from one culture to 
another—images too specific, too peculiar, and too widespread to 
be rationalized as mere exaggerations or make believe. The sym¬ 
bols direct our attention to natural phenomena far more powerful 
and more terrifying than anything occurring in our own time— 

Motif #1: Hero’s Weapon. Lightning takes the form of a 
frightful sword, arrow, axe, flail or other weapon in the hands of a 
great warrior or divine messenger—a god whose identity merges 
with the lightning-weapon itself. Surprisingly, the same "weapon" 
turns up as an instrument of healing or resurrection as well. 

Motif #2: Winged Thunderbolt/Winged Disk. Lightning 
appears as a radiant disk or sphere in the sky, with heaven-spanning 
wings. It is a great "thunderbird," or it is launched from the wings 
of such a bird, or bursts forth as a flash of fire from its eye. 

Motif #3: Axis Mundi. Lighting streaks along the world axis, 
acquiring the form of a towering column that is said to have "sepa¬ 
rated heaven and earth" in primeval times. This same pillar is the 
hero’s staff, rod, or scepter, and through metamorphosis it passes 
into other, more complex forms as well. 

Motif #4: Lightning Wheel and Flower. Lightning "blossoms" 
as radiating, symmetrical streamers—the petals of a luminous 
flower, the awe-inspiring "glory" of a great star, or the spokes of a 
cosmic wheel turning in the heavens. 

Motif #5: Whirling Thunderbolt. Lightning spirals into ser¬ 
pentine coils or winds upward in a helical motion around a central, 
axial column. It whirls across the heavens as a celestial tornado, 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

whirlwind, or whirlpool, sometimes graphically recorded as a 
whorl, swastika, or triskeleon. 

Motif #6: Caduceus. Lightning manifests as entwined ser¬ 
pents, ribbons, or filaments whirling upward along a central axis or 
column. Two entwined filaments signify the lightning-form taken 
by cosmic twins. 

Motif #7: Thunderstones. Lightning arrives with falling stones 
or boulders. Typically, the falling rocks are flung by warring gods 
who also brandish, or are, the divine thunderbolt. 

How did such images of the "thunderbolt" take root around the 
world? Though the global images have almost nothing in common 
with lightning today, the cross-cultural patterns are remarkably 
consistent. Hence, a solution to the mystery must be possible. 

Thunderbolt as Divine Weapon in Primeval Times 

Though we cannot pause here to elaborate all of the themes 
noted above, each will find comprehensive treatment in these 

As for the first motif on our list—the legendary hero’s 
weapon—most mythologists assume that the association with 
"lightning" is a secondary principle, not a general rule. Our conten¬ 
tion, however, is that virtually all forms of the hero’s weapon 
belong to the thunderbolt motif. A unified explanation of the magi¬ 
cal sword, arrow, spear, club, or axe is possible, even in instances 
where the explicit "lightning" identity was lost over time. At the 
heart of the theme lie the natural formations taken by plasma dis¬ 

In the course of our analysis we intend to show that the essence 
of the divine thunderbolt was etheric —it was wind, water, and fire. 
It was a whirlwind or tornado, a whirling flame, a devastating flood, 
even a comet. If it was also a celestial serpent or winged monster, 
that was because the plasma discharge formations appearing above 
the ancient witnesses readily inspired such fabulous interpretations. 

It is the earlier images that illuminate the later fragments and 
elaborations of the thunderbolt motif. In the Babylonian narrative 
above, the arrow released by Marduk is the god’s thunderbolt. Else¬ 
where, the god’s bolt appears as a lance, a weapon by which the 
god himself was represented in Babylonian iconography. One of the 
texts also explains that the firebrands kindled as part of the festivi¬ 
ties represented the god’s lightning-arrows. 20 On the face of it, the 
symbolism may seem perfectly natural in reference to familiar 
lightning. But enigmatic nuances of the thunderbolt stand out in 
both the Babylonian written narratives and the ritual reenactments 


The Rites and Symbols 
of the Warrior-King 

It is no exaggeration to say that every warrior-king 
who ruled in ancient times promoted himself as the 
incarnation of the warrior god. Just as the divine war¬ 
rior had defeated world-threatening monsters and 
“fiends of darkness,” the king would rid his land of 
demonic forces, conducting ritual “hunts” to purify 
the realm, and leading expeditions against the “bar¬ 
barians” beyond the gates. 

It was through this identification that the king 
qualified himself to assume the throne. The blood of 
the warrior flowed through his veins. He built towers, 
pyramids and “heaven-reaching” monuments, just as 
his ancestor had done. He sacrificed victims to the 
gods. He “irrigated” and “cleansed” the land. And in 
sacred marriage rites he consorted with the “queen of 
heaven,” for had not the ancestor 
himself taken the mother goddess 
as his consort or bride? 

The ancient Egyptians hon¬ 
ored Narmer, the “first” pharaoh, 
as “the incarnation of the hawk- 
god Horns,” depicting him in the 
conqueror’s role against the 
“marsh dwellers,” just as the war¬ 
rior god had defeated the armies of 
Set in ancestral times. Thutmose 
III boasted of the same role in 
defeating the Mitanni. Amidst the 
enemy armies he claimed to have 
appeared as a “flashing star in bat¬ 
tle,” his fiery breath destroying the 
armies in an hour. In this devasta¬ 
tion, the adversaries were “non¬ 
existing ones”—the very Egyp¬ 
tian phrase used for the chaos 
fiends in the contest of warrior god 
and attacking dragon. 

In a similar vein, the pharaoh Seti I claimed to 
have vanquished his enemies through the tempestuous 
“majesty” of the god Amon-Ra. This “majesty” was 
nothing else than the fiery blast the god himself had 
sent forth against the hordes of the dragon Apep. 

The alignment of king and warrior is vividly por¬ 
trayed in accounts of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal’s 

military adventures. Born as the incarnation of the 
warrior-hero, Assurbanipal defeated Arabian tribes in 
a re-enactment of the cosmic conflict. “The warrior 
god Irra, engaging them in battle, struck down my 
foes. Urta, the lance, the great warrior, pierced my 
enemies to the life with his sharp arrow.” 

Whether such accounts speak 
of descending fire, of devastating 
“breath,” or an irresistible lance or 
arrow, the language cannot be sepa¬ 
rated from that of the cosmic thun¬ 
derbolt. In the Annals of MurAjili, 
it is, in fact, the divine warrior’s 
thunderbolt that brings the king’s 
victory, “.. .The mighty storm god, 
my lord, showed his ‘divine power’ 
and shot a ‘thunderbolt.’ My army 
saw the ‘thunderbolt’ and the land 
of Arzawa saw it and the ‘thunder¬ 
bolt’ went and struck the land of 

The thunderbolt and the rites 
and symbols of “holy war” thus 
stand together—a field of evidence 
rarely explored, but teeming with 
clues too often overlooked. 

ABOVE RIGHT: A scene on the wall of the northern 
palace of Assurbanipal in Nineveh shows the king, 
armed with his arrow, engaged in the ritual hunt. 
CENTER: the famous Narmer palette (obverse) 
depicts the pharaoh subduing the “marsh dwellers.” All 
components in the scene were designed to accentu¬ 
ate the divine qualities of the warrior king. 

Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

of the event. Marduk’s weapon appears to overlap with the image of 
a whirling "cyclone" called abubu and rendered pictographically as 
a mace or club—images that make little sense in themselves but 
will take on increasing clarity in the course of our investigation. . 

Similar images occur in Sumerian accounts of the great warrior 
Ninurta’s victory over the monstrous “bird” Anzu who, like 
Typhon, had sought to usurp the powers of heaven. 

On the mountainside Anzu and Ninurta met.. .Clouds of death rained 

down, an arrow flashed lightning. Whizzed the battle force roared 


between them. 

By his victory, Ninurta became the “strong warrior who slays 
with his weapon,” his lightning arrow or dart having pierced the 
heart of the monster. 

So too, the Assyrian “storm god” Adad (Phoenician and Hebrew 
Hadad), an alter ego of Marduk, is shown wielding thunderbolts as 
arrows or spears, though elsewhere he carries a lightning mace 
(right). 23 The great Assyrian warrior Ashur launched arrows from 
his bow as lightning, in the very fashion of the Babylonian Mar¬ 
duk. 24 

According to W. M. Muller, the spear or harpoon of the Egyp¬ 
tian Horus was a metaphor for the thunderbolt. "...Lightning is the 
spear of Horus, and thunder the voice of his wounded antagonist, 
roaring in his pain.” 7 

As noted by Mircea Eliade, the Hebrew Yahweh “displayed his 
power by means of storms; thunder is his voice and lightning is 
called Yahweh’s ‘fire,’ or his ‘arrows.’” 25 The connection is deeply 
embedded in the language. The Hebrew baraq, “lightning,” is also 
used in the sense of “flashing arrow-head.” 26 Similarly, the feared 
"sword of God," according to Louis Ginzberg, is the flashing light- 
nmg. ' 

Various Christian traditions appear to have adapted the idea to 
later images of God's struggle with the "devil." In the legends of 
Armenian Christians, for example, "the lightning is often a sword, 
arrow or fiery whip which the Lord is hurling at the devil, who is 
fleeing, and who naturally and gradually has taken the place of the 
ancient dragon." 28 

Few scholars have found any of this to be enigmatic. The funda¬ 
mental idea may seem so natural that most translators of ancient 
texts give little attention to the unique attributes and associations of 
the thunderbolt. 

Evolution of the Thunderbolt 

One fact relating to the evolution of world mythology is fre¬ 
quently overlooked. The setting of later stories progressively 

The dragon of Marduk carries the 
symbol of his vanquisher—the 
lightning-weapon—on his back. 

Assyrian “storm god” Adad holds in 
his hand a mace, a form taken by 
the lightning of the gods. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Zeus launching his thunderbolt, 
from a Greek vase painting. 

The eagle on the U.S. one dollar 
bill holds in its talons an olive 
branch and a sheaf of arrows, the 
latter tracing to classical images of 
the eagle of Zeus (Latin Jupiter) 
with its lightning-arrows. 

changed as storytellers began to locate the gods on 
earth. In the course of Egyptian history, for example, 
both the creator Ra and his regent Horns, whose origi¬ 
nal domain was undeniably celestial, came to be 
remembered as terrestrial kings. In later time, when 
Greek and Roman poets, philosophers, and naturalists 
sought to gather knowledge from far flung cultures, 
Egyptian priests would relate to them many stories of 
the gods, declaring that the events had occurred in 
their own city in the time of the "ancestors." 

As a bridge between the more archaic world and 
the fragmented and diluted myths of later times, 
Greek accounts offer many clues as to the evolution of 
thunderbolt symbolism. In the hands of the sovereign 
Zeus, the nature of the divine weapon is clear. The poet Pindar 
speaks of Zeus "whose spear is lightning," 29 while Aristophanes 


invokes lightning as "the immortal fiery spear of Zeus." In the 
words of Nonnus, Zeus is "the javelin-thrower of the thunderbolt." 
"The spear he shook [in the battle with Typhon] was lightning." 
"Do thou in battle lift thy lightning-flash, Olympus’ luminous 
spear." 31 

The connection is transparent in the Greek keraunds, “thunder¬ 
bolt,” most commonly used for Zeus’ weapon and said to stem 
from a Proto-Indo-European root *ker-. The same root 
appears to lie behind the Sanskrit sharu, ‘arrow’ and the 
Gothic hairus, ‘sword.’ 32 As in other cultures, the 
Greek thunderbolt also found frequent expression as 
an arrow. The most familiar representations of the 
"eagle" of Zeus (as, of course, the eagle of the Latin 
Jupiter) depict the god’s lightning as arrows held in 
the talons of the bird—a representation well pre¬ 
served into modern times by the symbol of the eagle 
and its lightning-arrows on the U.S. one dollar bill. 
Many authorities thus acknowledge that the lightning 
of the gods found expression as an arrow in plastic art 
of Greece, Italy, and Sicily. 33 

But as we descend to secondary gods and regional 
heroes, the connection of weapon and thunderbolt becomes more 
ambiguous. The Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo describes the 
god’s confrontation with the chaos serpent Python, whom the 
chroniclers identified alternately as a form of the dragon Typhon or 
as the nurse of Typhon. 34 Significantly, we do not find in the poet’s 
words any explicit acknowledgment that it was a lightning-weapon 
that brought down the serpent. The Homeric and other accounts 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

refer to the invincible "arrow" launched by Apollo, causing the 
monster to shudder violently and to give up its life in a torrent of 
blood. But was this "arrow" just an arrow, or did it really mean the 
thunderbolt which, in the earlier Near Eastern accounts, took the 
form of an arrowl 

Many authorities have, in fact, recognized that the arrows or 
swords of Apollo cannot be separated from the language of the 
thunderbolt. Apollo bore the epithet chrysaoros or chrysaor — 
meaning “of the Golden Sword” (aor) 35 —and here the lightning 
connection shines through: according to the distinguished authority, 
W. H. Roscher, the Golden Sword is a Greek hieroglyph for the 
thunderbolt. 36 Indeed, Zeus himself, the most famous wielder of 
the thunderbolt, was Chrysaoreus or Chrysadrios, "He of the 
Golden Sword." 37 

Cross cultural comparison makes clear that the hero’s connec¬ 
tion to the "thunderbolts of the gods" was no accident. We are not 
dealing simply with a poetic metaphor for ordinary lightning. 
Rather, ordinary lightning served as a metaphor for something 
once seen in the sky, but alien to ordinary experience. Lightning 
thus stands alongside other metaphors (arrow, sword, whirlwind, 
comet, etc.), all pointing to extraordinary experience. The arche¬ 
typal identity of the warrior-hero’s weapon can be brought to light 
only by finding the root forms expressed in a wide array of sym¬ 

What occurred in the case of Apollo is underscored by many 
parallels in the language and symbolism of legendary heroes. By 
following this evolutionary tendency across the centuries, we 
observe how the poets and historians placed the stories on a land¬ 
scape familiar to them, as the thunderbolt became a sword, spear, 
hammer or club of a celebrated warrior, now a “great man” who 
continued to battle chaos monsters, but no longer in the heavens. 
The celestial warrior lost his cosmic attributes to become the best of 

The two paintings above, both 
depicting Apollo's defeat of 
Python, accent the ambiguity as to 
the mythic setting. The painting on 
the left, by J. M. W, Turner, sug¬ 
gests a terrestrial occurrence, 
while the painting by Eugene Dela¬ 
croix on the right has preserved 
many nuances of the original 
celestial context. 

Scene on a Greek coin illustrates 
Apollo’s confrontation with the ser¬ 
pent Python. 


By following the evolution of the hero archetype 
across the centuries, the researcher can observe how 
the cosmic thunderbolt, a centerpiece in innumerable 
tales of celestial combat, emerged as the magical 
weapon of a legendary warrior. It became the sword, 
spear, hammer, or club of a hero who continued to 
battle chaos monsters, but no longer in the sky. 

The diminished hero typically reveals an enig¬ 
matic mix of god and man, as in the accounts of the 
Sumerian and Babylonian hero Gilgamesh, destroyer 
of the monster Huwawa. Once reduced to human 
dimensions, the hero could no longer hold onto his 
original weapon, a weapon claimed to have altered the 
destiny of heaven and earth. 

Localization of the celestial drama had a huge 
impact on Greek imagination, as can be seen in virtu¬ 
ally all Greek epic literature. In the most popular tale 
of all, Homer’s Iliad, the ideal warrior is Achilles, 
whose story provided the fulcrum upon which 
the poet integrated different tribal memo¬ 
ries, bringing together dozens of 
regional heroes upon the battlefields 
of a legendary, and entirely mytho¬ 
logical, Trojan War. But the more 
archaic themes, though subdued, 
are still present. 

Achilles' father was the 
mythic king Peleus and his mother 
the "sea" goddess Thetis, daughter 
of Oceanus, for whose affections 
both Zeus and Poseidon had con¬ 
tended. Bathed by his mother in the 
river Styx, the river that "joins the earth 
and Hades,” he was tutored by the Centaur 
Chiron. His armor was fashioned by the god 
Hephaestus, the very god who fashioned the thunder¬ 
bolts of Zeus. 

The actual terrestrial city of Troy is the modern 
Hissarlik in Turkey, the site of a fortified palace from 
the Bronze Age onward. Neither this palace, nor any¬ 
thing uncovered by archaeologists in the region could 
have inspired the city of which the poets spoke! In the 
cultures of the Near East and Mediterranean, hun¬ 
dreds of historic kings left unmistakable proof of their 
lives and their cultural influence. But of the countless 
kings, warriors, princesses and seers in the Iliad, not 

one finds historic validity. The reason for this is that 
the claimed events did not occur on earth. The origi¬ 
nal subject was a cosmic drama, whose episodes pro¬ 
gressively masqueraded as terrestrial history. 

In the illustration on the left, from a 
Greek drinking vessel, Achilles con¬ 
fronts the serpent-guardian of a 
Trojan fountain. Our question 
must be: what is the relationship 
of this image to the archaic con¬ 
tests between warrior gods and 
chaos serpents? 

The similarities shared by 
mythic heroes are vast, direct¬ 
ing our attention to ancient 
themes that can only appear 
incomprehensible to the modern 
world. The poets spoke of Achilles' 
spear as forked, or possessing a "dou¬ 
ble tongue", as when Aeschylus, in his 
Nereids, writes, "The shaft, the shaft, with 
its double tongue, will come." Practically speaking, a 
forked spear-point would likely have doomed an 
ancient warrior using it. But the image was not rooted 
in practicality. It comes directly from the well docu¬ 
mented forked configuration of the thunderbolt 
wielded by Zeus. Of Achilles' spear, the poet Lesches 
of Lesbos (author of the Little Iliad), wrote: 

"The ring of gold flashed lightning round, and o'er it 
the forked blade." 

The ancestral warrior, bearing the lightning- 
weapon in battle, was but an echo of the warrior god. 

Achilles: “The Best of the Achaeans” 

Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

heroes, the esteemed ancestor of the tribe or nation telling the story. 
Once reduced to human dimensions, the hero could no longer hold 
onto his original weapon, a weapon claimed to have shaken and for¬ 
ever changed both heaven and earth. 

The Lightning-Weapon in Later Times 

The evolution of the myth presented an enigma. How would 
later poets and historians, after localizing the stories, describe the 
cosmic weapon with which, in the more archaic tales, the warrior- 
god vanquished heaven-spanning serpents, dragons, and chaos 

Of course, mythologists will not normally think 
of the sword of Perseus (right) or the club of Hera¬ 
cles—much less the healing "staff" of Hermes—as 
symbols of the cosmic "thunderbolt." World mythol¬ 
ogy presents such figures by the thousands, and in 
most instances the original identity of the magical 
weapon has slipped into the background. Yet only 
rarely could it be hidden entirely. In most cases, the 
localized weapon still retained glimpses of the origi¬ 
nal: it was a "gift" from gods or goddesses, could 
strike like lighting, or was constructed from "flash¬ 
ing" gold or some indestructible material, had the 
miraculous ability to expand to cosmic dimensions 
when wielded in combat, or its magical powers traced 
to an age of gods or semi-divine ancestors. Neverthe¬ 
less, what we usually see is just a shadow of the cosmic thunderbolt 
so vividly described in early Near Eastern narratives of primeval 
order and chaos. 

The “shadow,” however, is sufficient to establish the original 
identity of thunderbolt and hero’s weapon in other bodies of myth. 
In the Grail cycle of myths, lightning receives the name Lanceor, or 
"Golden Lance," an archaic name of Lancelot. Lightning is also 
linked to the sword Excalibur, which Geoffrey of Monmouth called 
Caliburn, from the Welsh Caledvwich, Irish Caladbolg, traceable to 

Q O 

the archaic Celtic language of lightning. 

The most famous Celtic hero, Cuchulainn, victor over chaos 
powers, held a weapon granted him by the lightning god Bolga, 
"the inventor of the missile spear." By acquiring this weapon, 
"Cuchulainn was greatly strengthened in battle." 39 Gae Bolga is 
translated as “Bolga’s spear” or “a harpoon-like javelin.” Some¬ 
times referred to as a “lightning weapon,” it had its origin in the 
Otherworld where it was forged by the divine smith. Its lightning 
stroke was always fatal. 40 

Perseus, the hero who slew the 
monstrous Medusa, was cele¬ 
brated in later times as a constel¬ 
lation. The scene here is from the 
masterful work painted on the ceil¬ 
ing fresco of the Villa Farnese in 
Caprarola, Italy. 



Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Sagittarius. From Hyginus, Poetica 
astronomica (1485 edition). 

In the form of a sword, the lighting weapon bestowed upon Fer¬ 
gus, one of the two sons of Fionn, offered a great advantage in war¬ 
fare, enabling him (like so many mythic heroes) to single-handedly 
slay hundreds on the battle field. "This sword was named In Calad- 
bolg, a two-handed lightning sword." 41 

Again and again, Germanic tribes placed a lightning weapon in 
the hands of their celebrated heroes. The diverse mythic forms of 
the thunderbolt, according to H. Bachtold-Staubli, include "the 
glowing missiles; as such they are present in all stages of human 
cultural history, from the rough stone and club of primitive times 
through the hammer, axe, and spear, to the golden sword wielded 
by the Hero." 42 

Gertrude Jobes, a diligent investigator of symbolic themes, 
affirms that, among the Altaic Tatars, lightning was the "arrow of a 
mighty hero." 43 A common Slavic name for the weapon of the 
celestial warrior Perun is strela, "arrow." 44 The lightning of the 
Finnish Ukko appears as "fire arrows" or "copper arrows." 45 Simi¬ 
larly, the Finnish warrior-hero Jumala, is said to have "wielded 
thunderbolts in the shape of jagged lightning-spears." 46 

In several parts of Italy saetta or arrow is the name for the light¬ 
ning. In Slavonia the “thunderstone” is called strelica (i. e., arrow), 
on Swedish soil in some places askpil (thunder-arrow), in Mecklen¬ 
burg dunnerpil, etc. 47 

The same language appears in the British Isles. Irish saign_n, 
“lightning,” is derived from saigit, “arrow,” and both this word and 
seah, “thunderbolt,” in Breton dialects are based on Latin sagitta, 


“arrow.” Thus our familiar images of Sagittarius, the divine 
"Archer" of constellation symbolism, clearly belong to an ancient 
tradition equating the hero’s arrow and the divine thunderbolt. Less 
known is the much smaller constellation Sagitta, "the Arrow," close 
to the center of the Milky Way. Here the constellation symbol, 
according to Eratosthenes, harked back to "the arrow shot by 
Apollo against the Cyclops, who forged the lightning with which 
Zeus had cut off the life of his son Asclepius." 49 

Among the Tibetans and Mongols lightning is seen as the arrow 
of a dragon-riding god, and thunder as the voice of the dragon 48 
So too, the warrior Raiden, in Japanese myth, wielded "fire- 
arrows"—acknowledged to be lightning—in his battle against the 
chaos power, Raiju, the "Thunder-beast." 50 

Among the Zulu tribes of Africa, lightning takes the form of a 
dazzling spear hurled through the air. 1 The African Kikuyu say 
that God clears his path with a weapon, often described as a sword, 
and identified as the lightning. 52 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

Numerous equations of hero’s weapon and thunderbolts occur 
in the Americas as well. An Iroquois account tells of a warrior He- 
no, whose thunderbolt vanquished a chaos monster— 

He-no's name means ‘thunder.’ A monstrous serpent dwelt under 
the village, and made his annual repast upon the bodies of the dead 
which were buried by its side ... he went forth once a year, and poi¬ 
soned the waters of the Niagara, and also of the Cayuga creek, 
whereby the pestilence was created ... He-no discharged upon the 
monster a terrific thunderbolt which inflicted a mortal wound.' 54 

Essentially the same notions prevailed throughout the Americas. 
The Navaho say that, long ago, the arrows that defeated the devour¬ 
ing powers of chaos were the lightning. 55 Zuni tradition identifies 
the lightning as "as the arrows of celestial Archers." 56 The Pawnee 
and their neighbors recall the great warrior, named Black Lightning 
Arrow. 57 Thus, Von del Chamberlain, who ranks among the most 
informed authorities on Plains Indian mythology, tells us that "the 
flint-tipped arrows of the Indian correspond to the lightning arrows 
shot to earth by higher powers ...Pueblo Indian designs also show 
the lightning, tipped with arrow-heads." 58 

Thunderbolt as Club, Hammer, and Axe 

The warrior and his thunder-weapon find explicit illustration in 
the Germanic Thor, whose name is given to a day of the week— 
Donnerstag, the day of Thunder, our Thursday. He was the stron¬ 
gest of men and of gods, the victor over giants, dragons and a host 
of dark or destructive powers. Thor was the "Hurler" (Vingnir) and 
his weapon was the thunderbolt, with which the great warrior him¬ 
self seems to have been inseparably identified. "The god is, etymo¬ 
logically, thunder, and his hammer, Mjollnir (Crusher), represents 
lightning." 59 

As we should expect, it was Thor who vanquished the terrible 
Midgard serpent or Jormungand ("wolf-serpent"), seen thrashing 
about in the sky while the world reeled under the catastrophe of 
Ragnarok, the rain of fire and gravel. In confronting the monster, 
Thor hurled his great stone hammer or mallet Mjollnir, fashioned 
by dwarves in much the same way that the Cyclopes fashioned the 
thunderbolt of Zeus. The power of the blow was sufficient to send 
the Midgard serpent plummeting into the sea. 

Again, both the symbolic associations and the linguistic roots 
bear out the overlapping identities of hero, hero’s weapon, and 
lightning. It is generally recognized that Thor’s "lightning weapon" 
was originally an independent warrior-god. Amulets dated to the 
tenth century and presenting the lightning-weapon in human-like 

In a field at Cerne Abbas, England, 
the Celtic hero god Dagda is 
inscribed in chalk. Wielding a giant 
club, the figure is almost 220 feet 


The Good and Evil Warrior 

As cross-cultural investigation exposes the 
underlying patterns of world mythology and sym¬ 
bolism, we discover ironies that would not be 
expected from the study of a single culture alone. 
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the dif¬ 
ferent cultures were describing the same events, 
comparative inquiry reveals surprising paradoxes 
and role reversals arising from tribal and national¬ 
istic loyalties. 

Most surprising is the warrior-hero’s hidden 
identification with the masculine chaos monster 
he battles. The one turns out to be the alter ego of 
the other, and all that distinguishes them is the 
interpretation of events. Though the situation is 
more complex than this due to the role of another 
archetypal figure (see discussion of the mother 
goddess, Chapter 3, p._), the evidence is suffi¬ 

ciently clear to allow this generalization: the hero 
and his masculine “enemy” stand side by side, 
each a mirror image of the other. 

In Sumerian and Babylonian traditions, the 
god Ninurta was said to have battled a “usurper,” 
Anzu. But archaically, in the city of Lagash, the 
lion-headed Anzu was the symbol of divine rule. 

The prototypical power of chaos and dark¬ 
ness in Egypt is the god Set, but in one tradition, 
it was Set who harpooned the chaos powers. 
Indeed, it is well known that the Hyksos, who 
ruled Egypt for a time, revered Set as the model 
of the heroic warrior. 

We see the same ambiguities in Hinduism. 
Ravana, the leader of the Rakshasas, was a prince 
of great beauty, favored by Brahma. But in the 
Ramayana epic Ravana is the great demon 
brought down by the warrior Rama. 

The Hindus feared and hated Ahi, the demon 
whom their hero Indra vanquished. And yet, Ahi's 
Iranian counterpart, Azhi Dahaka or Zohak, 
appears as an exemplary king, who heroically 
ousts the usurper Yima Xaeta or Jamshid. In 
Tibetan traditions the god Indra is not a hero, but 
a demon. 

We meet the same paradox in New Zealand 
where Maui is the prototypical hero, but Maui- 
Tiki, his Tahitian counterpart, was a maleficent 
fiend, the slayer of men. 

ABOVE: Archaic Sumerian cylinder, showing the 
lion-headed eagle of Lagash. This “eagle”-god, 
revered by priests and poets in Lagash, is in fact 
Anzu, who appears as the enemy in the story of 
the warrior Ninurta’s confrontation with Anzu. 

LEFT: The ancient Egyptian god Horus stood in 
intimate relationship to his constant enemy Set, a 
relationship symbolized here by the heads of the 
two gods on a single body. RIGHT: The Hindu 
Ravana was both a good king and a demon. 

There is more to the paradox, but for now it is 
sufficient to note that it was not reverence alone 
that inspired the ancient devotion to the warrior, 
but terror as well. The warrior’s “heroism” stood 
in balance with his terrible aspect as usurper, 
murderer, and madman, the bringer of pestilence. 
The archetype of the warrior-hero and of the 
destroyer ultimately meet in the same figure. 

Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

form, sometimes show the lightning god’s beard taking the place of 
the hammer head . 60 

Numerous authorities, including Jacob Grimm, assure us that 
the hammer of Thor means the "crushing thunderbolt." Grimm 
compares the Teutonic Mjollnir with Slavic molnija, "lightning ." 61 
In fact, the widespread linguistic relationship of the stone hammer¬ 
head to lightning is now well-established. Welsh mellt, Church 
Slavonic mluniji, Serbo-Croatian munja, Russian molnija and Old 
Prussian mealde, all meaning "lightning," are derived from the 
same root. So too, the Old Norse myln, "fire," and especially 
Latvian milna, are invoked as the "hammer" of the warrior Perkun 
and acknowledged to be the lightning . 62 Scholars such as Christo¬ 
pher Blinkenberg who have investigated the general theme, find that 
the identification of the warrior’s “hammer” with lightning is so 
pervasive as to constitute a bedrock principle. 

Also of interest here is the Hindu vajra, the illustrious thunder¬ 
bolt of the warrior Indra, called a "whizzing club" in the sacred 


texts of the Rig Veda. Such images of the lighting-weapon invari¬ 
ably lead us backward to the lightning-mace held in the hands of 
the Near Eastern storm gods noted above. 

To these symbols of the divine thunderbolt we must add the axe 
wielded by gods and heroes—a subject already well explored in 
scholarly studies. 

As noted by B Schmidt, the word for the thunderbolt in modern 
Greek tales of primordial warfare in the heavens is astropeleki, the 
"sky axe ," 64 though perhaps “star axe” or “stellar axe” comes 
closer. This is the very term which, to this day, native populations 
use for Neolithic stone fragments and implements that, when recov¬ 
ered, are venerated as the lightning weapons of the gods. 

Authorities who have examined the symbolism of the lightning- 
axe trace it back to Minoan civilization and farther still to Babylo¬ 
nian cosmology . 65 But the lightning-axe is not limited to a particu¬ 
lar region of the world. It appears as the weapon of the Aztec 
Tlaloc, the Maya Chac, and numerous legendary warriors of Afri¬ 
can mythology, finding equally vivid expression in the South 
Pacific and throughout eastern and southeastern Asia . 66 

The Club of Heracles 

Of all the ancient Greek heroes, none achieved greater popular¬ 
ity than the club-wielding warrior Heracles, whose far-famed 
“Twelve Labors,” together with many other adventures, compressed 
diverse tribal lore into the ordeals of a single hero. 

The vase painting on the following page depicts Heracles’ 
defeat of the giant sea serpent Triton. Such exploits typified the 

Norse warrior god Thor, wielder of 
the thunderbolt in battle. 

In this scene on a Greek coin, Hera¬ 
cles wears a lion skin over his left 
arm while his right hand rests on a 
club; in the field to the left, a thun¬ 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Heracles vanquishes the sea- 
dragon Triton. 

biography of the hero, with its variations on a single underlying 
theme, all harking back to the mythic warrior’s contests with 
chaos monsters. 

Heracles’ own relationship to the thunderbolt may not be 
obvious, but neither was it forgotten. As seen on the previ¬ 
ous page, a Greek coin depicts Heracles standing with a 
club in his right hand. In the field behind him is the thun¬ 
derbolt of Zeus. Just as the spear of the celebrated war¬ 
rior Achilles retained the connection to the thunderbolt of 
Zeus (it "flashed lightning round”; see sidebar on page 46), 
the poet Hesiod describes Heracles leaping into battle "like 
the lightning of his father Zeus.” 

In view of Heracles’ acknowledged links to Thor and Indra, 67 it 
would make no sense to ignore the cross-cultural implication, that 
Heracles’ giant-slaying club is a Greek variant of the lightning 
weapon carried by heroes around the world. Of course, most spe¬ 
cialists in Greek literature and religion give little attention to cross- 
cultural comparison. But the lightning-clubs of other heroes glo¬ 
bally can hardly be ignored. Even the Dinka of Sudan honored a 
great ancestor-god Deng, whose club was the thunderbolt. 

Cosmic Thunderbolt and Plasma Discharge 

LEFT: Thunderbolt in the hands of 
Ninurta, as he battled the monster 

RIGHT: Idealization of a bipolar 
plasma discharge formation, illus¬ 
trating the three-dimensional struc¬ 
ture accounting for the Babylonian 

The mythic traditions reviewed above pose a question vital to 
our investigation. What is the cosmic thunderbolt’s connection to 
the plasma discharge forms documented in the laboratory and found 
in rock art by Anthony Peratt? 

The evidence suggests that before the monumental civilizations 
arose, intense electrical activity in the sky was the overriding con¬ 
cern of humanity. The events that inspired the myth-making epoch, 
with its pervasive themes of order and chaos, also provoked a mas¬ 
sive collective response within all of the emerging civilizations. 
Both the natural events and the commemorative symbols they 
inspired bear a direct relationship to the vast pictographic record 
carved on stone, pointing back to a time when all of humanity wit¬ 
nessed prodigious plasma formations in the heavens. 

The illustration on page 30 shows the Sumerian Ninurta wield¬ 
ing the thunderbolt in his battle with the monster Anzu. For our pur¬ 
pose here, the key is the form of Ninurta’s thunderbolt (far left). We 
present alongside this image a three-dimensional representation of 
the corresponding discharge form suggested by the archaic symbol. 
It is a variation on the “hourglass” configuration discussed in Chap¬ 
ter One. We offer this idealized configuration to emphasize that, in 
the plasma interpretation of the thunderbolt, the two outer “prongs” 
belong to the same transparent, cylindrical current sheet. The 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

ABOVE: Recurring Greek images 

“warped” look of the cylindrical component of the “hourglass” con- of the thunderbolt of Zeus, 
figuration can be compared to many variations in archaic rock art. 

Of all the ancient cultures it seems that the Greeks preserved the 
most voluminous artistic renderings of the thunderbolt. It is instruc¬ 
tive, therefore, to compare the core Greek images to similar varia¬ 
tions in laboratory discharge configurations. 

The examples above represent several common thunderbolt 
forms in Greek art. But it is the three dimensional nuances of the 
plasma discharge interpretation that enable us to see past the limita¬ 
tions of the ancient media and to envision the energetic patterns 
represented. The Greek themes then fall into place. 

In art and literature, the Greek thunderbolt repeatedly shows a 
central “corkscrew” column, answering to Birkeland Currents 
entwined around a central axis (see illustration on page 24). In 
Greek representations this corkscrew column persists through many 
variations of the thunderbolt, just as it does in similar laboratory 
discharge configurations. 

As the entwined currents in a linear discharge become more 
tightly bound they may appear as a single glowing column, a princi¬ 
ple evident in many Greek illustrations. Indeed, the Greek examples BELOW: Greek thunderbolt as 
leave no doubt that this axial column is the thunderbolt as sword, sword, spear, missile, or arrow. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Laboratory discharge photograph 
published by Anthony Peratt. 

spear, missile, or arrow (examples below). 

From any conventional vantage point, the Greek thunderbolt 
images can only appear to be disconnected from all natural experi¬ 
ence. A hallmark of the Greek images is the role of symmetry, both 
along the axis and to the left and right of the axis—not a feature of 
familiar lightning, but a feature remarkably consistent with the pat¬ 
terns of plasma discharge. 

Greek artists repeatedly show the twisted column sending forth 
the sepals or leaves of a “lotus”-blossom, these evolving into sym¬ 
metrically displayed, outstretched horns or wings. Hence, the gen¬ 
eral accord with plasma discharge configurations is all the more 
telling (example on left). 

Typically, the Greek images depict either the lotus-form or its 
evolution into horns or wings in bipolar pairs—much like many 
rock art images associated with the hourglass form (the “squatter 
man,” etc.). Greek examples of the thunderbolts are dominated by 
patterns of bipolarity, often with perfect symmetry. But the artists 
also employed frequent variations between the upward- and down- 
ward-pointing components, while only rarely varying the symmetry 
to the left and right of the axis. We have already noted similar varia¬ 
tions in the vertical components of the hourglass or “squatter man” 
in worldwide rock art. (See discussion of bipolar symmetry in 
Chapter One.) 

The laboratory counterpart of form (3) above was published by 
Anthony Peratt in his first article on plasma discharge in relation to 
ancient rock art. The idealized form of the discharge, given for the 
purpose of illustrating three-dimensional structure and plasma 
dynamics, is formation (A) below. In this “brandy glass” formation, 

The illustrations above interpret 
the Greek thunderbolt images as 
plasma discharge, emphasizing 
the three dimensional contribution 
of current sheets and cylinders. 

the upper termination of the axial discharge column appears as a 
central spike enclosed within “horns” or outstretched “wings.” 

Plasma discharge generates magnetic fields that, in turn, influ¬ 
ence the discharge structure and evolution. Current filaments and 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

sheets can attract each other at larger distances but repel at shorter 
distances, leading to various forms of equilibrium, all contributing 
to the non-random or “organized” look of the configurations. 

The forms noted here graphically idealize the plasma discharge 
formations implied by the Greek images. Along the axial column, 
“pinching” of the entwined Birkeland Currents by the induced mag¬ 
netic fields will typically produce a spheroid, which then begins to 
flatten into a disk. As the disk expands, its edges will begin bending 
upward or downward to form a “saucepan” or “bowl” shape. It is 
this spheroid-to-disk and disk-to-cylinder evolution that gives rise 
to the “brandy glass” forms (A) and (B) above. 

A discharge column can produce multiple disks or toruses 
stacked along the column. Where conditions foster bipolar symme¬ 
try, it is not uncommon for one disk above the pinch point to bend 
upwards while the disk forming beneath the pinch bends down¬ 
wards, creating the hourglass form discussed in Chapter One. In 
high energy discharge an entire stack of disks or toruses may be 
bent in either direction, a form also noted in Chapter One. 

It is important to see the discharge configuration in its three- 
dimensional aspects. An observer walking around the configuration 
would continue to see essentially the same form. And while the 
configuration displays three prongs (a “trident” form), the central 
column, composed of bound currents, is of a fundamentally differ¬ 
ent dynamic than the two “horns” of the right and left, which 
belong to a single rotating (cylindrical) current sheet. 

In the second illustrated configuration (B), the spheroid-in-for- 
mation of (A) has begun to flatten into a disk, and the central col¬ 
umn of the discharge has extended farther upward into the “brandy 
glass” form of the current sheet. 

In image (C) the disk in the discharge column has moved 
upward and its edges have folded upward as 
well, to influence—and be influenced by—the 
magnetic fields configuring the upper “horns.” 

The “horns” have become more angular, a com¬ 
mon occurrence in the evolution of Peratt Insta¬ 

Image (D) illustrates the interaction of 
embedded cylindrical currents held in equilib¬ 
rium (attraction and repulsion) parallel to the 
discharge axis. This “pitchfork” appearance 
answers to the Greek form (6) and to the labora¬ 
tory discharge configuration given on the right. 

This later image of the Greek thun¬ 
derbolt integrates key design ele¬ 
ments from the more archaic 
designs, retaining the principles of 
bipolar symmetry and symmetry to 
the left and right of the axis. The 
respective elements are entirely 
alien to those of a terrestrial light¬ 
ning bolt. 

Laboratory discharge, in artificial 
color, illustrates the “pitchfork” 
configuration, constituted of cylin¬ 
drical current sheets in a plasma 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

In image (E) the cylinders of (D) are magnetically pinched at 
their base to form embedded conical cylinders. This is the basis for 
the discharge interpretation of the Greek form (7). 

All of these configurations have one attribute in common. Turn 
them on their axes, and they would continue to present essentially 
the same form. The distinctive appearance is due to the luminosity 
of excited particles along the observer’s lines of sight. In the cylin¬ 
drical components, for example, the greatest brightness occurs on 
the limbs, where the line of sight passes through the largest volume 
of excited particles, whereas the more transparent or darker regions 
are those where the line of sight passes through the lowest volume 
(the portion of the cylinder perpendicular to the viewer). 

Analogs in Space 

The Hourglass Nebula illustrates 
the powerful effects of the plasma 
pinch along the axis of a dis¬ 

It is not in the laboratory alone that we observe the unique fea¬ 
tures of plasma discharge discussed here. The same formations can 
now be seen in space, though most astronomers remain unaware 
that electrified plasma generates these observed forms. Of course, 
the electrical interpretation of the nebulas noted here is not the com¬ 
monly accepted view among astronomers. Thus, as new telescopes 
further our ability to see deeply into space, a continuing stream of 
surprises seems certain. 

The “hourglass” discharge configuration has one of its more 
obvious counterparts in the Hourglass Nebula on the left, and 
astronomers concede that it is forcing a reconsideration of the phys¬ 
ics of nebula formation. According to Raghvendra Sahai, an astron¬ 
omer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, 
"What we thought we understood of planetary nebulae we no 
longer do. Something different and dramatic is going on." 74 
Astrophysicists offer various guesses as to how a belt of “gas and 
dust” might form around the equator of a dying star. They imagine 
that a stellar “wind”—exploding in all directions —is somehow 
“constricted” to create bipolar jets. In some discussions of late, 
they even use the term "pinch," but in contexts that are more gravi¬ 
tational and mechanical than electrical. No mention is made of the 
far simpler plasma discharge pinch, because that requires a source 
of electrical energy external to the star. Yet in plasma laboratory 
experiments, the observed effect is commonplace—not just the 
pinch but all of the features of "hourglass" formations now seen in 

A similar mystery is posed by the Butterfly Nebula (or M2-9), 
and higher resolution Hubble Telescope images have only under¬ 
scored the unanswered questions. Inside the "hourglass" of both the 
Hourglass and Butterfly nebulas is a second hourglass form. "It's 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

Hubble Telescope image of the 
The Butterfly Nebula, one of the 
most striking examples of a bipo¬ 
lar formation in space, with colli¬ 
mated jets and embedded 
cylinders extending distances 
greater than the diameter of our 
solar system. 

very hard to see how you get it," Sahai states. 69 But again, glowing 
coaxial cylinders and cones are not a surprise to experts in plasma 
discharge phenomena. 

Responding to the surprising details of the Hubble image, Lars 
Christensen of the European Space Agency states: "It's a big mys¬ 
tery to us all—how a round star like our own sun can create this 


effect, which is so symmetrical. It's amazing." 

Struggling to comprehend things never anticipated by prior the¬ 
oretical models, astronomers have resorted to improbable guesses 
based on gravitational and mechanical, non-electric forces with no 
reference to the electrical circuits necessary to generate the 
observed magnetic fields. Some imagine a binary star system with 
two stars in extremely close proximity exchanging mass. Matter 
drawn from one of the stars, they suppose, generates a giant disk 
around the other. Then, the “high-speed wind from one of the stars 
rams into the surrounding disk, which serves as a nozzle. The wind 
is deflected in a perpendicular direction and forms the pair of jets 
seen in the nebula’s image.” 71 

This scenario, using a “jet engine” as its analogy, lacks any 
plausible mechanism to generate the high-speed wind in the first 
place. Moreover, the claimed “wind” should generate highly visible 
effects on the disk, causing it to quickly dissipate. Both the “hour¬ 
glass” and “pitchfork” components of the nebula are, in fact, repli¬ 
cable in high-energy electric discharges. Illuminated by direct 
experimental evidence, the Butterfly Nebula can be seen as a “thun- 

This image produced by the Very 
Large Telescope, focused on the 
pinch point at the hourglass “neck” 
of the Butterfly Nebula. It shows a 
toroidal band of dusty plasma 
occluding the star at the center of 
a high energy discharge. A torus 
of this sort, whether visible or not, 
is predicted by the science of 
plasma discharge. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

ABOVE LEFT: Ant Nebula. 

ABOVE RIGHT: the “exploding” star 
Eta Carinae. 

The “planetary nebula” NGC 
2346, revealing the telltale hour¬ 
glass form. 

derbolt” form in space, with powerful electromagnetic forces main¬ 
taining its integrity across trillions of miles. That is not the way a 
mere cloud of electrically neutral “gas and dust” will behave in the 
vacuum of space! 

Bipolar formations of this type, arising from the plasma pinch, 
are also well illustrated by the Ant Nebula (above left). Seen in the 
constellation Norma, its outflow speeds—3.5 million km/hour— 
surpass those of any other known object of its type. Though similar 
in appearance to the Butterfly Nebula, its outflow pattern resembles 
that of the bizarre, “unstable” star Eta Carinae (above right). 

The lobes of Eta Carinae are as wide as our solar system and are 
observed to be expanding in opposite directions away from a cen¬ 
tral bright disk at speeds in excess of 1 million km/h (600,000 
mph). Many astronomers now accept that the odd 
shape is due to the star's intense magnetic field 
channeling plasma. But still the electric source of 
magnetic fields receives no mention. To explain 3 
million degree temperatures and x-rays from gas 
more than a light-year from the central star, they 
resort to purely mechanical "shock waves," a con¬ 
cept that is completely unnecessary in an electric 

As long ago as 1968, Dr Charles Bruce of the 
UK Electrical Research Association identified plan¬ 
etary nebulae as bipolar electrical discharges from a 
central star. The nebula of Eta Carinae certainly 
belongs in that category. If the nebula is a plasma 
heated by electric currents feeding into the star of Eta Carinae then, 
just as with our own sun, the highest "temperatures" are encoun¬ 
tered beyond the star. That is why there is relatively little radiation 


Mysteries of the Cosmic Thunderbolt 

from the star at the center. Most of the electrical power focused on 
the hapless star is being intercepted by gas and dust in the nebula 
and radiated energetically into space. Thus, Dr. Fred Seward of the 
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics expressed great sur¬ 
prise at what he saw: "I expected to see a strong point source with a 
little diffuse emission cloud around it. Instead we see just the oppo¬ 
site—a bright cloud of diffuse emission, and much less radiation 


from the center.’ 

ABOVE LEFT: The Bug Nebula, 
spanning about one third of a light 
year, but retaining the hourglass 
form of the plasma pinch. The light 
of the star is rich in ultraviolet, one 
of the signatures of electric dis¬ 

ABOVE RIGHT: A higher resolution 
Hubble Telescope image of the Bug 

Though a lot is happening close to the highly energetic pinch 
point, the hourglass form can be discerned in relation to the pinch, 
and stands in a predictable relationship to the “pitchfork” configu¬ 
ration of cylindrical current sheets. 

These are by no means the only “hourglass” formations exhib¬ 
ited by nebula. In the Bug Nebula above, for example, many indica¬ 
tions of electrical activity are evident. The central star is hidden by 
a dark dust torus. And the shapes within the nebula mimic the 
twisted filaments, spirals and pillars typical of electrical discharge 
in plasmas. 


In this investigation, converging paths of inquiry demand a 
reconsideration of popular beliefs in the sciences and social sci¬ 
ences. We can no longer view the history of human conscious¬ 
ness—or the history of our planet—through the lens of twentieth 
century cosmology. 

The myths and symbols of antiquity will have a central place in 
this reconsideration. Though presented in the language of myth and 
symbol, ancient accounts of the warrior, the dragon, and cosmic 
combat are filled with images of electricity. The "thunderbolts of 
the gods" defy every effort to understand them as references to 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

familiar lightning. They spiral and whirl and entwine. They blos¬ 
som as a flower, or stand as a great pillar supporting the sky. Their 
forms are not the forms of regional lightning, but of plasma dis¬ 
charge in plasma laboratory experiments. 

The ancient “lightning gods,” such as the Greek Zeus or Apollo, 
move about as fierce and towering forms in the heavens. In their 
appearance, these gods answer to no recognizable entity or force of 
nature, and the chroniclers’ descriptions will tempt us to regard the 
myth-makers themselves as relentless liars. But a much different 
understanding of ancient accounts is possible, if we grant to the 
original witnesses a certain integrity. We do not need to regard their 
testimony as "scientifically accurate." We need only acknowledge 
that the core themes of mythology may have originated in extraor¬ 
dinary natural events, for which ancient races had no cultural prep¬ 

If this was the case, the stories are a form of historic testimony 
in the only languages that were available to the eyewitnesses them¬ 
selves. It then becomes clear that around the world many different 
hieroglyphs and symbols actually described identical celestial phe¬ 
nomena. This discovery, in turn, requires that we follow the logical 
rules for dealing with converging testimony. How do we uncover 
the forgotten events now hidden behind the symbols they inspired? 

As discoveries in plasma science continue, we can be confident 
that a comparative analysis of ancient sources can stand alongside 
other fields of evidence. The testimony of ancient witnesses will 
find many corollaries in laboratory research and in new vistas in 


Chapter Three 

“...And the heat and blaze from both of them were on the 
dark-faced sea, from the thunder and lightning of Zeus and 
from the flame of the monster, from his blazing bolts and 
from the scorch and breath of his stormwinds." 

Hesiod, Theogony , describing the dragon Typhoeus’ assault on the world. 

Chapter Three 


Velikovsky’s Challenge: An Unstable Solar System 

No one investigating the themes of myth and catastrophe can 
afford to overlook the pioneering work of Immanuel Velikovsky, 
author of the 1950 best-seller Worlds in Collision. Though the book 
sparked an international scientific controversy, continuing well into 
the 1970’s, few scientists today are familiar with the independent 
investigations inspired by Velikovsky’s insights. As a result, the 
occasional comment on Velikovsky rarely touches the issues as they 
now stand, more than 40 years into the space age. 

Velikovsky saw in ancient literature a story of planetary distur¬ 
bance, rich with images of cosmic upheaval and improbable mon¬ 
sters in the sky. A centerpiece of his reconstruction was the planet 
Venus, the subject of catastrophic images the world over. Veli¬ 
kovsky claimed that about 3500 years ago, Venus appeared in the 
sky as a spectacular comet, nearly colliding with the earth and 
bringing wholesale disaster. He also argued that several centuries 
after this disaster, a series of close encounters of Earth and Mars 
produced upheavals on a global scale. Less well known is his claim 
that ancient planetary catastrophes involved bolts of "lightning" or 
electrical arcing between planets in close approach. 

To most scientists the idea of a planet as a comet, or planets jos¬ 
tling with each other like "billiard balls," or lightning on an inter¬ 
planetary scale, was simply preposterous. Velikovsky’s work 
deserved only ridicule. 

It is not our purpose here to analyze the details of Velikovsky’s 
work. Our interest is in fundamental concepts that distinguish his 
insights from the sweep of modern theory. In Worlds in Collision 
Velikovsky claimed— 

1. The present order of the planets is new. In geologically recent 
times the planetary system was unstable, and at least some plan¬ 
ets moved on much different courses than they do today. 

2. Erratic movements of the planets led to global catastrophe on the 

Immanuel Velikovsky 

Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Immanuel Velikov sky, 1972 

3. Through rigorous cross-cultural comparison of the ancient tradi¬ 
tions, an investigator can reconstruct the celestial dramas. 
Velikovsky brought impressive scholarly credentials to his 
inquiry, and his approach was interdisciplinary. He used the insights 
of a psychoanalyst and the methods of a historian to investigate the 
traditions of diverse cultures. He discerned deeply rooted themes 
that others had failed to see—descriptions of traumatic events 
occurring on a global scale. 

In support of his reconstruction Velikovsky found physical evi¬ 
dence from geology, paleontology, and archeology. He also formu¬ 
lated a series of predictions consistent with his hypothesis, but 
unexpected by previous theories. He predicted that the planet Jupi¬ 
ter would emit radio signals; that the planet Venus would be much 
hotter than astronomers expected; and that craters on the moon 
would reveal remanent magnetism and radioactive hot spots. Veli- 
kovsky’s ability to anticipate scientific discovery produced a sur¬ 
prising statement from the renowned geologist Harry Hess (in an 
open letter to Velikovsky in 1963): 

Some of these predictionps were said to be impossible when you 
made them. All of them were predicted long before proof that they 
were correct came to hand. Conversely, I do not know of any specific 
prediction you made that has since been proven to be false. I suspect 
the merit lies in that you have a good basic background in the natural 
sciences and you are quite uninhibited by the prejudices and probabil¬ 
ity taboos which confine the thinking of most of us. 1 

The authors of this book believe that Velikovsky was incorrect 
on many particulars, some of them crucial to a proper understand¬ 
ing of ancient events. But his place among the great pioneers of sci¬ 
ence will be secure if he was correct on the underlying tenets noted 
above. For this challenge to customary beliefs Velikovsky was ridi¬ 
culed and reviled. The most profound implication of that challenge 
is an insight that is crucial to understanding space age discoveries. 
He said that the only way the evidence that he presented could be 
reconciled with current scientific knowledge would be through con¬ 
sideration of electromagnetism. In Worlds in Collision he wrote: 

I became skeptical of the great theories concerning the celestial 
motions that were formulated when the historical facts described here 
were not known to science.... The accepted celestial mechanics, not¬ 
withstanding the many calculations that have been carried out to 
many decimal places, or verified by celestial motions, stands only if 
the sun ... is as a whole an electrically neutral body, and also if the 
planets, in their usual orbits, are neutral bodies. Fundamental princi¬ 
ples in celestial mechanics, including the law of gravitation, must 
come into question if the sun possesses a charge sufficient to influ- 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

ence the planets in their orbits or the comets in theirs. In the Newto¬ 
nian celestial mechanics, based on the theory of gravitation, 

electricity and magnetism play no role. 2 

This was written several years 
before the space age began. But now, 
as we argue in this and later mono¬ 
graphs, the vital role of electricity and 
magnetism can no longer be denied. 

We have, however, gone beyond 
Velikovsky's observations to identify 
numerous aspects of the ancient expe¬ 
rience never envisioned by Velik- 
ovsky. The authors desire to honor 
Velikovsky here because, while we 
pursued our work independently of 
each other for more than two 
decades—one following historical 
evidence, the other exploring scien¬ 
tific evidence—we both received the 
original spark of inspiration from the 
same pioneering theorist. 

To question modern notions of solar system stability is to raise 
possibilities that presently have no place in space exploration, geo¬ 
logical investigation, or accepted studies of ancient history. Com¬ 
munication in such a case can easily break down, due to the 
incompatibility of theoretical assumptions. Yet one advantage 
offered by the interdisciplinary hypothesis we offer in these mono¬ 
graphs is its testability. The breadth of our subject permits the 
investigator to cross-reference wide-ranging fields of data, giving 
primary attention to undisputed patterns of evidence. In numerous 
instances, the patterns present acid tests 

An orrery, or mechanical model of 
the planetary system, now in the 
British Natural History Museum. 
The model symbolizes the stable 
and predictable movements of the 
planets—a sharp contrast to the 
insistence of ancient cultures that 
the heavens were altered cata¬ 

• Do the patterns present a unified picture of the ancient world? 

• Do the patterns challenge modern assumptions about solar sys¬ 
tem history? 

• Are the patterns predictable under a different view? 

When the Planets were Gods 

Certain beliefs that can only appear outrageous today pervaded 
the ancient cultures. One of these beliefs is that, at the beginning of 
time, heaven and earth were united. Prior to the collapse of this pri¬ 
meval order, towering gods moved about in a theater described as 
either close to the earth or on earth. What the ancient Sumerians 
called the “bond of heaven and earth” linked the gods above and 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

humankind below, when the supreme god Anu ruled with terrifying 

The Egyptians celebrated the “First Time,” or “the age of the 
primeval gods,” marked by the universal kingship of Atum Ra. For 
Greek poets and philosophers it was the Golden Age of Kronos 
who, with his fellow Titans, dominated the heavens. Other cultures 
called it an age of “giants,” or of “archangels,” or of divine “ances¬ 
tors” in the sky. Though we have much crucial ground to cover 
before taking up these traditions, certain facts must be acknowl¬ 
edged at the outset: 

The story of Adam and Eve in para¬ 
dise, as depicted in a painting by 
the 16th century German artist 

• Recollections of a prior “age of gods and wonders” occur the 

world over. Always this lost epoch begins with paradise, or a 

Golden Age, a stark contrast to “the present time.” 

• Archaic mythical and astronomical traditions proclaimed that 

this former world disappeared in an onslaught of fire or flood. 

• Commonly accepted approaches to human history are unable 

to illuminate either collective memory. 

For anyone investigating the roots of ancient themes, these con¬ 
siderations can hardly be a small matter! Nor can they be separated 
from Velikovsky’s original challenge to science. 

Vital clues appear in the early astronomical traditions. Ancient 
tribes and nations had reason to fear many natural phenomena, from 
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to storms and floods. Most had 
good reason to fear their own neighbors as well, since “barbarians 
at the gate” periodically overwhelmed one culture after another. But 
what did the first astronomers fear the most? More than anything 
else on earth or in the sky, they feared the planets. 

Significantly, the fear of planets is most emphatic in the birth¬ 
place of astronomy, in Mesopotamia. The historian Diodorus Sicu- 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

lus states the matter explicitly in his report of Chaldaean beliefs: 
“But above all in importance, they say, is the study of the influence 
of the five stars known as planets.” 3 If the fathers of the science be 
heard, planets determined the fate of kings and kingdoms, brought 
devastating upheaval, and reconfigured the sky. One would think 
that many other forces in nature would have commanded far 
greater attention than remote planets. But the message of the first 
stargazers is clear. They venerated and feared the planets as the 
gods, goddesses, heroes, and chaos monsters of the mythical 

Sumerian astronomer priests invoked the goddess Inanna, the 
planet Venus, as the radiance or glory of the heavens, but also as a 
great dragon depositing fiery venom on the “rebel land.”— 

Like a dragon you have deposited venom on the foreign lands. When 
like Ishkur you roar at the earth, no vegetation can stand up to you. 
As a flood descending upon (?) those foreign lands, powerful one of 
heaven and earth, you are their Inanna. Raining blazing fire down 
upon the Land, endowed with divine powers by An, lady who rides 
upon a beast, whose words are spoken at the holy command of An! 4 

For the Sumerians and Babylonians no celestial power was 
more consistently linked to earthquake, pestilence, and death than 
the planet Mars, whom the star-worshippers honored as Nergal 
“raging flame-god... whose storming is a storm flood.” 6 

Archaic astronomical and magical texts of Mesopotamia are 
filled with such images. (Other examples are given in sidebars to 
this chapter.) Sumerian and Babylonian astronomy, with its memo¬ 
ries of warring planets, conditioned the fears and expectations of 
every culture influenced by it. And outside the influence of Meso¬ 
potamian astronomy we find remarkably similar ideas, from Aus¬ 
tralia and the South Pacific to the Americas. 8 The images boldly 
defy what is self-evident in our own time and would have been 
equally self-evident to the mythmakers had they observed the sky 
that we do today. Without the aid of telescopes we see five planets 
moving on regular paths around our Sun, and it does not appear that 
anything has changed. But is it possible that the uneventful solar 
system to which we are so accustomed is deceiving us? 

Sumerian vessel shows the god¬ 
dess Inanna, in the form of a pan¬ 
ther, battling a serpent. The 
goddess herself, however, is 
known to have taken both feline 
and serpentine forms. 

It is known that early Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus, 9 
Democritus, and Anaxagoras preserved archaic traditions of former 
worlds that fell into chaos. Two of the most common expressions of 
the notion were ekpyrosis the combustion of the world, and 
kataklysmos, the destruction of the world by flood. Such concepts 
of universal destruction dominated the thought of Zeno, the founder 
of Stoic cosmology, and later gnostic systems carried forward simi- 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

The Greek philosopher Plato. 

lar notions. 10 But most of the early philosophers’ works were lost, 
and the few extant fragments rarely provide a sufficiently complete 
picture of the claimed events. What, for example, was the role of 
planets in the remembered cataclysms? 

Plato, in his Timaeus, speaks of world-altering catastrophe 
caused by the celestial bodies departing from their courses— 

For in truth the story that is told in your country as well as ours, how 
once upon a time Phaethon, son of Helios, yoked his father's chariot, 
and, because he was unable to drive it along the course taken by his 
father, burnt up all that was upon the earth and himself perished by a 
thunderbolt - that story, as it is told, has the fashion of a legend, but 
the truth of it lies in the occurrence of a shifting of the bodies in the 
heavens which move round the earth, and a destruction of the things 
on the earth by fierce fire, which recurs at long intervals.... And 
when, on the other hand, the Gods purge the earth with a flood of 
waters, all the herdsmen and shepherds that are in the mountains are 
saved . 11 

Such traditions can illuminate the ancient notion, tracing to the 
birthplace of astronomy, that the paths of the planets have changed. 
The Greek historian Diodorus, reporting on the longstanding claims 
of Chaldean astronomy, stated that the motions of planets “are sub¬ 
ject to change and variation.” 12 The Roman poet Lucan attributes 
virtually identical ideas to Nigidius. 13 More specific is the assertion 
by the third century Babylonian astronomer-priest Berossus, as 
reported by Seneca, directly linking the movements of planets to 
the prior destruction of the world by fire and flood. “Berosos, who 
translated Belus, says that these catastrophes occur with the move¬ 
ments of the planets... which now maintain different orbits.. .”. 14 

As summarized by Franz Boll, Carl Bezold and Wilhelm Gun- 
del, the archaic tradition reflected in the words of Plato and Seneca 
held that “The flood, the conflagration of the world, and other 
minor catastrophes were related to planetary motions and are to be 
interpreted as the result of disturbances in the movements of the 

planets.” 15 

The Greek term for this planetary disturbance is synodeuein or 
synodos. “This requires an actual meeting and even a collision on 
the same plane, hence the planets bump into each other both 
according to width and height and so bring about the end of the 

There is, however, an ambiguity in most of the classical refer¬ 
ences to world conflagration. The great philosophers had begun to 
reinterpret the more ancient traditions, seeking to reconcile them 
with things observed in their sky—this despite the fact that nothing 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

in the regular movements of the celestial bodies could actually 
account for the earlier themes. Greek philosophy offers a telling 
example of the dilemma still facing investigators today. How can 
the consistent memories of universal destruction be reconciled with 
the stable solar system of modern observation? The answer is that 
the two cannot be reconciled. Attempts to interpret earlier cata¬ 
strophic testimony through the lens of present observation lead only 
to a distortion of evidence and a denial of fact. 

In truth, the archaic notion of planetary catastrophe belongs to 
the global substructure of astral mythology. According to Taoist 
teachings the world falls into chaos when planets change their 
courses. 16 The Iranian Bundahish, in its description of cosmic dis¬ 
order, reports that the “planets ran against the sky and created con¬ 
fusion.” In the Iranian accounts, it was only after the fravashi’s 
apocalyptic battle with the daivas that the celestial order stabilized 
so that “the celestial bodies now move on their regular courses.” 17 
Echoes of the idea appear also in the Chinese Bamboo Books and 
the Soochow Astronomical Chart, both of which associate catastro¬ 
phe with planets going “out of their courses.” 18 In Hindu texts, the 
movements of planets, in a prior age of the gods, led to the “uni¬ 
verse” dissolving in flame. 19 

To establish our case, therefore, we must reach beyond the 
mythic archetypes of attacking dragons, cosmic thunderbolts, and 
Doomsday upheaval to probe the substratum of cultural recollec¬ 
tions about planets. As we intend to show, certain associations of 
the planets, though highly unusual, are remarkably consistent from 
one culture to another. In particular, the global image of planets as 
agents of catastrophe must have an intelligible cause or explanation 
in human experience. 

Thunderbolts Launched by Planets 

With the birth of ancient astronomy, the stargazers named the 
owners of the divine thunderbolt. They identified them as planets, 
when planets were claimed to have ruled the world. The archaic 
astronomical tradition is stated in no uncertain terms by classical 
writers, reporting ideas that predated them by many centuries. 
“Most men,” wrote the Roman historian Pliny, “are not acquainted 
with a truth known to the founders of the science from their arduous 
study of the heavens... Thunderbolts are the fires of the three upper 
planets, particularly those of Jupiter.” This mysterious truth, Pliny 

is the origin of the myth that thunderbolts are the javelins hurled by 

Jupiter. Consequently heavenly fire is spit forth by the planet as crack¬ 
ling charcoal flies from a burning log, bringing prophecies with it. 


Was the Warrior-Hero a Planet1 

In his groundbreak¬ 
ing work, Worlds in Collision , 

Immanuel Velikovsky identi¬ 
fied the planet Mars as the 
source of a pervasive ancient 
image—that of the great warrior 
bearing a radiant sword in battle. 

Two of the most vivid examples 
are the Greek Ares and the 
Assyro-Babylonian Nergal, both 
identified as Mars in the astro¬ 
nomical traditions. 

Assurbanipal, king of 
Assyria, invoked the planet- 
god as “Nergal, the perfect 
warrior, the most powerful one among the gods, 
the pre-eminent hero, the mighty lord, king of 
battle.” Called the “firebrand” and “fire-star,” the 
“most violent among the gods,” Nergal was “the 
unpredictable planet,” according to Babylonian 
sources, the bringer of disaster, the star of evil 
and of rebellion. (We have already noted that the 
masculine chaos monster of world mythology is 
really the rebellious or terrible aspect of the war¬ 
rior. See sidebar, page 50.) 

Nergal’s Greek counterpart Ares, the Latin 
Mars, reveals the same image. He was venerated 
as the model warrior but 
hated for his fury and vio¬ 
lence, and for the pesti¬ 
lence that followed him. 

In Homer, the words of 
Zeus define the warrior’s 
dark aspect. “Most hate¬ 
ful to me art thou of all the 
gods that hold Olympus, 
for ever is strife dear to 
thee and wars and fight¬ 

Ares was both foolish 
and lawless. In his ram¬ 
page, he was “dread as a 
dark whirlwind” in the 
heavens. His body was 
stained with blood, and 
his bellows were “as loud 
as nine thousand warriors.” 

That the great hero of epic literature echoes 
the myth of the warrior-god can be seen in the 
description of Achilles—“as it were Ares him¬ 

self, plumed lord of 
battle,” the bronze of his 
spear gleaming “like flash¬ 
ing fire” (lightning). The link 
with the planet Mars is, in 
fact, explicit in the instance 
of the most famous of all 
warriors, the Greek Heracles 
(Latin Hercules). Greek 
poets remembered the fiery 
translation of Heracles to 
heaven, where astrono¬ 
mers identified him as 
the planet Mars. 

The warrior iden¬ 
tity of Mars is, in fact, a global theme, combined 
with images of fiery arrows, swords or spears, 
the most common mythic forms of the cosmic 
thunderbolt. For the Persians, Mars was god of 
fire and the “'warrior of the sky.” Hindu astron¬ 
omy knew Mars as Skanda , the “attacker.” And 
Chinese stargazers claimed that Mars exempli¬ 
fied the spirit of the warrior. 

The Aborigines of Victo¬ 
ria, Australia, insist that the 
hero Quarnamero, the “eagle,” 
who brought fire to the peo¬ 
ple, is now the planet Mars. 

He was “warlike, and much 
given to fighting.” The Bunu- 
rong of Victoria remember the 
cultural hero as Toordt. Upon 
his fiery death, he became the 
planet Mars. Another aborigi¬ 
nal tradition remembered the 
mythic warrior as Waijungari 
who, amidst a fiery conflagra¬ 
tion, climbed his own spear to 
the sky, becoming the planet 

The North American 
Pawnee identified Mars as a 
legendary “great warrior.” The 
Toba Indians of Argentina said that it was Mars 
who assisted warriors in battle, imbuing them 
with the fighting spirit. So too, the Inca of Peru 
claimed that Mars, as the god Aucayoc, took 
care of all matters relating to war. 

This warrior identity of Mars remains one 
of the great anomalies of ancient astronomy. 

Greek warrior-god Ares 

Roman Mars 

Electrical Encounters in Space 

And this is accompanied by a very great disturbance of the air ... 
because it is disturbed by the birth-pangs so to speak of the planet in 



Pliny also reports the claim by Etruscan wise men that there are 
nine gods who send thunderbolts, one of these being Jupiter, who 
“hurls three varieties.” 

Only two of these deities have been retained by the Romans, who 
attribute thunderbolts in the daytime to Jupiter and those in the night 
to Summanus... Those who pursue these enquiries with more subtlety 
think that these bolts come from the planet Saturn, just as the inflam¬ 
matory ones come from Mars, as, for instance, when Bolsena, the 
richest town in Tuscany, was entirely burnt up by a thunderbolt. 21 

Similarly, Pliny's contemporary, the naturalist Seneca, distin¬ 
guishes the “lesser bolts” of the local storm from the vastly more 
powerful bolts of the planet Jupiter. And he reports the general tra¬ 
dition linking the planets Saturn and Mars to the occurrence of 
lightning. If Saturn, “has Mars in conjunction,” he writes, “there are 
lightning bolts.” 22 

Elsewhere, however, Seneca expresses his own cynicism when 
claims about planets and “conjunctions” of planets contradicted the 
observed behavior of the planets in his time. He cites the assertions 
of earlier philosophers that, when planets come into conjunction, or 
simply approach each other, “the space between the two planets 
lights up and is set aflame by both planets and produces a train of 
fire.” 23 A stream of fire erupting between two planets is indeed an 
extraordinary idea, but as Seneca noted, none of his contemporaries 
observed such a phenomenon. And thus, through an understandable 
skepticism based on direct observation of stable planetary motions 
in Greek and Roman times, Seneca has earned a degree of respect 
from orthodox science today. 

Nevertheless, this prejudice in favor of later observation cannot 
be reconciled with the earlier human memory. The first astronomi¬ 
cal records of five stable planets do not appear until the second half 
of the first millennium B.C. Prior to that time, the dominant powers 
of the sky are not “planets;” they are simply “gods.” So the question 
cannot be avoided: when the first “planet” lists appeared, were the 
associations with the earlier gods arbitrary, or were they based on 
an authentic linkage between god and planet that the modern age 
has failed to recognize? 

Roman god Jupiter 


Lightning-Sword of the Planet Mars 

In his investigation of the planet Mars, Immanuel Velikovsky 
claimed that the planet’s irregular movement and close approach to 
other planets caused its atmosphere to be distended “so that it 
appeared like a sword” in the heavens. “A planet that collided with 
other planets in the sky and rushed against the earth as if with a 
fire-sword became the god of battle,” he wrote. 

Velikovsky compiled his work prior to major discoveries of 
plasma behavior in space, and before systematic laboratory investi¬ 
gation of plasma discharge phenomena. He did not call the “dis¬ 
tended atmosphere” of Mars a plasma discharge, and he did not 
realize that the sword of the far-famed warrior was, in fact, the cos¬ 
mic thunderbolt of the mythic traditions. But his identification of 
the warrior’s “sword” with the appearance of the planet Mars was 
a breakthrough of extraordinary insight, one that has now been tested 
and confirmed through decades of independent research. 

Velikovsky also noticed the relationship of the sword of Mars to 
a comet-like apparition, which we now recognize to be the same 
thing as the cosmic thunderbolt. He wrote: “In old astrological texts, 
as in the book of Prophecies of Daniel, comets that took the shape of 
a sword were originally related to the planet Mars.” 

Often before and later, too, celestial prodigies assumed the shape of 
swords. Thus, in the days of David a comet appeared in the form of a 
human being ‘between the earth and heaven, having a drawn sword in 
his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.’ (I Chronicles 21:16). 

Through cross-cultural comparison, we discover that the sword 
of the mythic warrior cannot be separated from other versions of his 
weapon: spear, arrow, club, mace, hammer, spade, harpoon. All such 
weapons reveal similar qualities as the essence of the god, and all 
fulfill identical roles in the myths. 

The mythical images imply that the planet Mars, in its plasma 
discharge, was virtually indistinguishable from the fiery “weapon” 
of the warrior. (As we noted in our summary of thunderbolt motifs, 
the warrior often appears as a personification of the lightning 
weapon.) Therefore it is not surprising that the sword, spear, arrow, 
mace, or other weapon of the great Mars figures in antiquity were 
seen as the identity of the god. The cuneiform ideogram for the god 
Nergal (Mars) means “sword.” Both the Greek Ares and the Latin 
Mars were not only symbolized by swords, but also venerated as 
swords. The Scythian cult of Ares, according to Herodotus venerated 
an iron scimitar as the image of the god himself It is also known that 
the oldest Latin image of Mars was a spear, kept in the Regia and 
addressed as Mars himself, for it was claimed that the shaking of the 
spear—a great prodigy—was due to the entry of the god into the 
weapon. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Alani fixed a 
naked sword in the ground and “worshipped it as Mars.” 

As observed by the comparative mythologist Georges Dumezil, 
“it is generally assumed that in more ancient times Mars did not have 
a statue, and the lance stood alone as the representative of Mars.” 

The Greeks celebrated the war¬ 
rior Apollo as the active will or 
voice of the universal sovereign 
Zeus. Apollo was both the ser¬ 
vant and the celestial weapon of 
Zeus, employed against the 
chaos powers in periods of cri¬ 
sis. He was chrysaor— meaning 
“of the Golden Sword’ (aor),” an 
acknowledged hieroglyph for the 
cosmic thunderbolt. (See page 

Though we find no consistent 
identity for Apollo amongst the 
“planets” of later astronomy, 
abundant clues are available. 
According to W. H. Roscher, 
whose authority on classical 
myth has never been surpassed, 
the Greek cult of Apollo was 
identical to that of the Roman 
cult of Mars. (See Roscher, 
Apollo und Mars) 

ABOVE: the astrological sign for 
Mars retained the connection to 
the warrior’s famous weapon. 

Electrical Encounters in Space 

The Thunderbolt and the 

The evolution and transforma¬ 
tion of mythic symbolism over time 
provides a host of clues about the 
original patterns of human memory. 

We have already noted that the 
“thunderbolts” of the gods were cos¬ 
mic in nature, taking forms never 
presented by regional lightning. The 
regional phenomena can only hint at 
the qualities of the archetype (elec¬ 
tricity, light, fire, violence, noise). 

Lightning familiar to us today is but 
a reminder, a symbol of the divine 
thunderbolt that altered the history Aztec painting of a comet, seen as 

of the world. a celestial announcement of devas- 

One of the most common errors in historical investigation is the tat ' n 9 catastrophe, 
tendency to confuse the symbol with the archetype, and the result is 
invariably a fruitless inquiry. Symbols alone do not explain them¬ 
selves. Taken in isolation, only their absurdity will be 
evident, quenching the fire of discovery. Symbols were 
not things in themselves; they were signposts pointing 
backward to something else. All sacred symbols shared 
a common function, speaking for the forms and events 
that distinguished the age of gods and wonders from all 
of subsequent history. When the distinction between 
archetype and symbol is honored, the results are both 
clear and stunning. In each case we find that not one 
symbol alone but a wide range of symbols point back to 
the same celestial form. Of this principle, dozens of 
examples will be given in these monographs. 

The cosmic “thunderbolt” is not a momentary flash 
of lightning followed by a burst of thunder. Every recurring feature Nineteenth century vision of a 
of the mythic tradition is an enigma. Each requires the researcher to world-destroying comet, 
see beyond familiar explanations. Each stands in defined relation¬ 
ship to complementary symbols that reflect the same improbable 

Consider, for example, the “absurd” fact that, mythically and 
symbolically the divine thunderbolt cannot be separated from the 
doomsday comet. The fire anciently claimed to erupt from or 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

between planets in close approach was not just a cosmic “thunder¬ 
bolt.” It was also called a comet. 

In nature as we experience it today, a thunderbolt and a comet 
have virtually nothing in common. And yet the archaic tradition 
does not allow us to distinguish the one from the other. In fact, 
when Seneca referred to the “train of fire” erupting between planets 
in conjunction (citation above), he was speaking of archaic astro¬ 
nomical traditions about the comet. The traditions coincide pre¬ 
cisely with those of the thunderbolt. The fact that both the 
thunderbolt and the comet appear as the sword of a great warrior is 
an additional pointer to the original unity of the traditions. 

The archaic traditions say that a stream of fire was seen to erupt 
between planets in close approach. In terms of the evolution of 
mythic ideas, the “fire” erupting between planets in conjunction 
could be called “the mother of all thunderbolts,” but also the 
“mother of all comets”: that is, it inspired the entire mythic content 
of two distinct natural symbols. Hence, there is only one reason, not 
two reasons, why ancient ideas about lightning and about comets 
defy observation in our time. The ideas arose from extraordinary 
natural events that are not occurring now. Many indications of this 
unity are given by the Pre-Socratic theories of the Greek philoso¬ 

The more general notion is encapsulated in the statement of Dem¬ 
ocritus that comets are a coalescence of two or more stars so that 

their “rays” unite. 24 Authorities agree that the term “stars” in the 
pre-Socratic discussion of comets means planets, since proper stars 
were not believed to be moving with respect to each other. Aristotle 

Comet Cheseaux of 1744, with 
beautifully displayed, collimated 
jets. Drawing published by Amedee 
Guillemin, The Heavens, in 1868. 
The head of the comet, of course, 
in beneath the horizon. 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

and Diogenes Laertius recorded the theories of Democritus and 
Anaxagoras in these terms: 

Democritus, however, has defended his view vigorously, maintaining 
that stars have been seen to appear at the dissolution of some com¬ 
ets. 25 

Anaxagoras and Democritus say that comets are a conjunction of 
planets, when they appear to touch each other because of their near¬ 
ness. 26 

Anaxagoras is said to have held “comets to be a conjunction of 
planets which emit flames.” 27 Diogenes of Apollonia, too, believed 
that comets are “chains of stars.” 28 

A similar report is given by Leucippus: comets are due to the 
near approach to each other of two planets. 29 

There is, in fact, a remarkable consistency to the archaic con¬ 
cept, which appears to trace to the foundations of ancient astron¬ 

Seneca, in his review of archaic ideas about comets, reports that 
“Apollonius says that the Chaldaeans place comets in the category 
of planets and have determined their orbits.” Seneca summarizes 
the planetary tradition with these words (which include the brief 
citation above): 

Some of the ancient scholars favour this explanation: when one of the 
planets has come into conjunction with another the light of both 
blends into one and presents the appearance of an elongated star. This 
happens not only when planet touches planet, but even when they 
only come close. For the space between the two planets lights up and 
is set aflame by both planets and produces a train of fire. 31 

Could such traditions withstand the progressive movement of 
Greek philosophy toward skepticism? The earlier assertions of 
Chaldean and Babylonian astronomy directly contradicted plane¬ 
tary observation in Greek and Roman times. The classical natural¬ 
ists’ reliance on contemporary observation is well illustrated by 
Seneca’s treatment of comets, when he notes the assertion of Epho- 
rus (400-330 B.C.) “Ephorus said that a comet once observed by all 
mankind split up into two planets, a fact which no one except him 
reports.” 32 That a “comet” became two planets is indeed an absurd 
claim by all modern standards. But once we have reconstructed the 
tradition, it will be clear that this was far from an isolated claim. It 
belongs, in fact, to the bedrock of cross-cultural memory. 

Despite the “refutations” by the respected naturalists of classi¬ 
cal times, the planetary nature of comets was continually asserted 
throughout the Middle Ages, in the works of such figures as Alber- 
tus Magnus, Gerard de Silteo, Roger Bacon, and Aegidius of Less- 


The Myth of the “Great Comet” Venus 

Today the planet Venus moves on a highly circular orbit 
around the Sun. Nothing in naked eye observations of the 
planet would seem to support its ancient identity as an 
unpredictable power, at once beautiful and terrifying. 
Ancient accounts depict Venus’ long-flowing “hair” as the 
glory of the gods. But in the planet’s frightful cometary 
aspect, it became a symbol of heaven-altering catastro¬ 

In recent years, a number of scientists and sci¬ 
ence writers have examined the ancient fears of 
comets, concluding that these fears originated in 
a cometary catastrophe early in human history. 
Among the most persuasive sources are two 
books by astronomers Victor Clube and William 
Napier, The Cosmic Winter and The Cosmic Ser¬ 
pent. Though the theories are of great interest, 
they miss a point of profound significance for 
comparative study of the comet theme. In a global 
tradition, now fully and convincingly docu¬ 
mented, the “Great Comet” of ancient fears was a 
planet. That planet, as Immanuel Velikovsky 
observed more than 50 years ago, was Venus. 

In Worlds in Collision , Velikovsky noted many 
tales of disaster in which the agent of destruction 
possessed comet-like attributes. Native cultures, 
however, identified this agent as the planet Venus. 
Velikovsky observed, for example, that in Mexi¬ 
can records, Venus was the “smoking star,” the 
very phrase employed for a “comet.” (Velikovsky 
did not know that the same equation occurs in 
Maya texts.) In both the Americas and the Near 
East, he found a recurring association of Venus 
with long flowing “hair” or a “beard,” two of the 
most common hieroglyphs for the comet in the 
ancient world. The same planet, among the Baby¬ 
lonians and other cultures, was called the great 
“flame,” or “torch of heaven,” a widespread hiero¬ 
glyph for a comet among ancient peoples. 

Another popular symbol for the “comet” was 
the serpent or dragon, a form linked to Venus in 
cultural traditions around the world. 

According to Velikovsky, the history of the 
comet Venus inspired some of the most powerful 
themes of ancient myth and ritual. At the heart of 

the story, he argued, is a collective memory of 
global upheaval—earthshaking battles in the sky, 
decimation of ancient cultures, and an extended 
period of darkness. 

Since Velikovsky’s work, independent investi¬ 
gation has confirmed his conclusion through 
many additional lines of evidence. In 
ancient times Venus was the prototypi¬ 
cal comet , providing the original con¬ 
tent of worldwide comet fears. 

The ancient idea appears to have 
affected all of the major cultures. Thus 
Robert Schilling, a leading authority on 
the Roman Venus (right), wondered by 
what “conspiracy” the image of a comet 
had attached itself to the planet Venus: 
in Latin traditions, the 8-pointed “star 
of Venus” also signified a comet. The 
Peruvian Chaska or Venus, was “the 
long-haired star,” the universal phrase 
for the comet. Similar titles of Venus 
occur elsewhere in both the Old World 
and the New. The Greek Aphrodite 
Comaetho, the long-haired or fiery 
haired Venus, preserves the same asso¬ 
ciation in the astronomer’s lexicon— 

“the comet Venus.” Altaic traditions 
declared that Venus “once had a tail.” 

In his famous debate with Galileo, Hor¬ 
atio Grassi recalled that the ignorant 
masses had long “considered Venus as a comet.” 

A seemingly preposterous claim about the 
most conspicuous planet, when discovered 
around the world, can no longer be called prepos¬ 
terous. It then becomes a key to discovery. 

Electrical Encounters in Space 

ines. 35 Bacon (1214-1292), a father of the scientific method, argued 
that conjunctions and aspects of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars were 
important factors in generating comets, a claim asserted also by 
Abu Ma‘shar. 36 

The reader may wonder whether this view of comets was lim¬ 
ited to Europe and the Near East. An answer comes from the Chi¬ 
nese astronomers of the T'ang dynasty, who said that comets were 
temporary emanations of the planets, the comet's color being indic¬ 
ative of the planet’s origin. 37 The unity of thunderbolt and comet 
traditions can also be followed through other symbolic expressions 
of the archetype. Even the mythic “broom” of the gods has the two 
concepts standing side by side. The Chinese called the comet “the 
broom.” But the complementary Japanese tradition identifies the 
broom as the thunderbolt of the gods. 38 

Though Aristotle, Seneca and other naturalists contributed 
much to the rise of scientific methodology, we must also consider 
what may have been lost if the more archaic ideas about thunder¬ 
bolts, comets, and planets, so easily dismissed, actually reflected 
the sky of an earlier time, a time all too easily forgotten in the 
absence of the original celestial referents. But if the classical 
authors had too little information to hear the ancient witnesses cor¬ 
rectly, the independent researcher today has a great advantage. An 
extensive library of source material, tracing to the beginnings of 
civilization in Egypt and Mesopotamia, is sufficient to answer the 
questions posed here. 

Aztec illustration of a comet emerg¬ 
ing from the stars as a celestial ser¬ 
pent in 1519. 

Planetary Catastrophe 

More than fifty years ago, Immanuel Velikovsky claimed that 
the planet Venus, in the form of a comet, devastated the ancient 
world. Velikovsky had noticed that identical images and stories 
were attached to comets and to Venus—not just in one land, but in 
virtually all of the major cultures. The comet was a hair-star, a 
beard-star, a torch or flame star, and a cosmic serpent or dragon. 
But these very words and images were also attached to Venus from 
China to the Americas, from Egypt to Mesopotamia. All told, the 
evidence is too specific and too consistent to be ignored. (See side- 
bar, page 76.) 

In recent years, independent researchers have carefully investi¬ 
gated Velikovsky’s work, and this new study has sparked a radical 
reassessment of his work by those who were most impressed with 
it. Though Velikovsky was certainly incorrect on many details, his 
insights on several foundational principles were profound. In par¬ 
ticular we stand with Velikovsky on one of his most revolutionary 


From Love Goddess to Chaos Monster 

The comet-like attributes of Venus will bring us 
face to face with a mythical figure of vast influ¬ 
ence on ancient imagination—the mother god¬ 
dess. It is indeed an extraordinary fact that of the 
five visible planets, Venus is the only one that 
ancient cultures everywhere celebrated as the 
mother of gods and heroes. A clearly defined pat¬ 
tern of this sort cries out for an explanation, and 
an explanation is possible when we allow the 
ancient witnesses to speak for themselves. 

What does the often-noted “Terrible Aspect” of 
the mother goddess signify? The goddess of love 
and life, when she grows angry, threatens to 
destroy the world. In Botticelli’s famous painting 
of Venus (above), we see nothing of this aspect. 
Ancient chroniclers, it seems, progressively sepa¬ 
rated the goddess’ life-giving and monstrous per¬ 
sonalities into different mythical figures, reducing 
the appearance of moral ambiguity. When we 
trace these figures back to their earliest proto¬ 
types, however, there can be no doubt that the two 
stand side by side as one goddess. 

In her terrible aspect, the goddess wears the 
dress of the comet , including the fiery countenance 
of a celestial serpent or dragon. The Sumerians 
revered Venus as the goddess Inanna, the source of 
life and the glory of heaven. But in her “tempestu¬ 
ous radiance“ she provoked only fear. The hymns 
depict Inanna in the form of a great dragon “rain¬ 
ing the fanned fire down upon the nation. 44 

The Babylonians knew the same planet as Ish- 
tar, “who is clothed with fire and bears aloft a 
crown of awful splendor.” She too became a 
dragon, bearing the “blazing fire which rains upon 
the hostile land. 44 

Alter egos of the terrible goddess occur 
amongst all of the great cultures. The Canaanite 
Anat, the Greek Medusa 
(right), the Hindu Durga 
and Kali, along with numer¬ 
ous other early figures of 
the goddess, enable the 
investigator to piece 
together a coherent story, 
based simply and directly 
on the remarkable point of 
agreement between the dif¬ 
ferent cultures. 

The terrible goddess 
shrieked across the sky with 
flaming or wildly dishev¬ 
eled hair (a global symbol of the comet). She took 
the form of a celestial torch or flame hurled 
against the world (another global symbol of the 
comet). Or she became a howling serpent or 
dragon (global symbol of the comet par excel¬ 
lence). In this role, the goddess emerged as the 
hag or witch. In both Mesopotamia and Arabia, 
Venus was thus “the witch star,” and even the 
“broom” of the witch is an 
acknowledged comet symbol. 

The story of the terrible god¬ 
dess finds innumerable archaic 
references in ancient Egypt, 
long before the rise of “planets” 
with their stable orbits. The 
Egyptian Uraeus-serpent (right) 
captures all of the nuances of 
the female serpent or dragon, 
but without the later planetary 
associations. In the hiero¬ 
glyphic language the Uraeus 
meant nothing else than the 
mother goddess. 

A popular Egyptian figure of 
the Uraeus was the goddess 
Sekhmet. In a catastrophe that nearly destroyed 
the world, Sekhmet had taken the form of the fire¬ 
spitting serpent. Her countenance was thus likened 
to a star “scattering its flame in fire... a flame of 
fire in her tempest.” “The fear of me is in their 
hearts, and the awe of me is in their hearts,” the 
goddess proclaimed. In fact, Sekhmet’s biography 
answers in detail to the biographies of the Near 
Eastern Venus goddesses , whose later planetary 
identity is beyond question. 

Electrical Encounters in Space 

claims: The planets have not always moved on the stable courses 
we observe today. 

Fifty years ago astronomers considered it outrageous for anyone 
to suggest that a planet could generate a "comet" tail. Escape veloc¬ 
ity from planet-sized masses would not allow gases or other mate¬ 
rial to be released into an external tail. But space probes discovered 
not only that planets had magnetospheres but also that the magneto¬ 
spheres were swept back into the solar wind as magnetotails, struc¬ 
tures that resembled comets’ tails. Venus, without a magnetic field, 
still sported an "ion tail" reaching almost to Earth, a structure 
almost identical to a comet’s tail. 

Proponents of the electric universe offer an entirely different 
explanation: a planet-sized body will sport a comet tail if it moves 
on an elliptical orbit through the Sun’s electric field. It will dis¬ 
charge electrically. The size of the body is not an inhibitor at all. In 
fact, only bodies small enough to rapidly adjust to regions of differ¬ 
ent charge will not become comets when moving on highly ellipti¬ 
cal orbits. The larger the body the more likely it is to have a "tail." 

We now observe "comet-tails" on a stellar scale in deep space. 39 
Hence the basis of the original argument against Velikovsky’s 
“comet Venus” are now refuted by direct observation. 

Electrical models of solar system genesis suggest an evolution¬ 
ary history of the planets bearing little resemblance to textbook 
descriptions. If stars are formed by electrical discharge and remain 
the focus of discharge, we can no longer simply project current 
planetary motions backward into primordial times. We cannot 
assume a closed and isolated system. Changes in the galactic cur¬ 
rents powering the system can alter both stellar behavior and plane¬ 
tary behavior suddenly and catastrophically. 

How stable was the solar system in the past? In the pioneering 
work of Hannes Alfven and his successors, orbital instability is a 
virtual certainty in the long-term evolution of an electrical model. 
In the birth of stellar and planetary systems, the electric force will 
typically dominate. But as the system dissipates electrical energy, it 
will reach a transitional phase at which a shift toward gravitational 
supremacy will occur, with potentially violent consequences. A 
chaotic system will then move toward stable electrical and gravita¬ 
tional equilibrium. Once planets achieve predictable orbits, no com¬ 
puter simulation based on later motions of the planets can provide 
even a clue as to the earlier system or its disruption. 

Many questions concerning the stability of planetary motions in 
the past can only be resolved through observational evidence, sup¬ 
plemented by ancient testimony wherever that testimony is globally 
consistent. Observationally, the first place to look will be the solid 

Hannes Alfven, Nobel Laureate 
and father of plasma cosmology. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Auroras occur when ionized parti¬ 
cles from the Sun interact with the 
Earth's upper atmosphere. Spec¬ 
tacular auroral displays would 
occur in the early phases of an 
exchange between charged plan¬ 

bodies in the solar system, many of them retaining pristine geologic 
records of past events. Under the conditions hypothesized by elec¬ 
trical models, planet-wide discharges would have left a multitude of 
electrical scars, and we must ask if planets and moons were for¬ 
merly immersed in electrical discharge, perhaps at energy levels 
capable of removing or depositing surface material miles deep in a 
short time. 

To ask the question is to confront one of the great surprises of 
the space age—the ravaged surfaces of solid planets and moons. 
But from the new vantage point, the picture requires more radical 
explanations than anything conventionally proposed. A great abun¬ 
dance of evidence makes clear that our earth was not immune from 
the ravages of planetary instability and its electrical effects. 

A Meeting of Planets 

How might earthbound witnesses have experienced such events 
if they occurred in ancient times, long before the rise of science? To 
give perspective to the hypothesis offered here, we relate below a 
sequence of possible events in an electrical encounter between the 
Earth and another planet. In this description we envision the planet 
Mars as the visitor, although similar events would occur at the 
approach of bodies with a wide range in sizes. 

This scenario is deliberately oversimplified. To avoid confu¬ 
sion, where particular tenets of our hypothesis would require 
advanced clarification, we have simply excluded them from this 
narrative. For example, our reconstruction involves an assembly of 
several planets moving in close congregation, but this scenario 
describes only two. Issues arising from the larger reconstruction 
will be treated in later monographs. 

Based on experimental and historical evidence, we assume that 
Earth is the more negatively charged body in the electrical 
exchange. In its closest approach we envision Earth’s planetary vis¬ 
itor towering over the landscape, perhaps occupying 10-20 degrees 
of arc in the sky—making it 20 to 40 times the visual size of the 

A Doomsday Scenario 

Our story takes place in geologically recent times, when our 
ancestors lived beneath a peaceful sky in a pastoral epoch prior to 
the rise of the great civilizations. These ancient peoples had not yet 
thought of building monuments or of constructing great cities. They 
had not yet instituted kingships and priesthoods. They had not yet 
devised calendars, seasonal rites, or the first astronomies. These 
events occurred before humanity’s turn to ritual sacrifice and before 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

the rise of a warrior class. There were no cosmic myths, and no for¬ 
mal writing systems were yet in use. 

As our story begins Earth and Mars move toward a close 
encounter. The first observable interactions occur when Mars is far¬ 
ther from the Earth than the Moon today. An electrical “conversa¬ 
tion” between the two bodies produces noticeable atmospheric 
effects on Earth. Induced electric currents disturb the upper atmo¬ 
sphere, generating a remote hum, or a rhythmic purring or chatter 
of the sky, perhaps a distant, unearthly rumble or chant. 

In this "dark current" phase, an invisible electric "breeze"— 
analogous to the solar wind—flows between the two bodies. 
Though we see no visible connection between the two planets, we 
do see growing auroral activity. The night skies are eerily lit. 
Brightly colored sheets and filaments dance across the heavens, 
extending to lower latitudes than ever observed with present-day 
auroras. Lightning storms grow in number and ferocity and move to 
higher latitudes, where lightning is normally a rarity. Across much 
of the Earth strange and stormy weather erupts, as clouds gather 
precipitously and race across the sky. 

Without understanding the cause, people react to the extremes 
in rising and falling barometric pressures. Ionization of the air 
induces mental oppression, adding to a sense of foreboding. Ani¬ 
mals grow more alert and excitable. 

As the electrical stresses increase, the dark current transitions to 
the "glow discharge" phase and becomes visible. Mars begins to 
eject material into its plasma sheath, generating an enveloping glow 
distorted in an earthward direction. Electric filaments extend from 
the planet’s glowing envelope toward the Earth, appearing as fine 
luminous hair or a beard of fire stretching down from the giant 
sphere in the sky. The increasing electrical stress produces dis¬ 
charge effects on Earth’s surface as well. At first, St. Elmo’s fire 
streams from the highest mountain peaks; but soon all mountains 
are ablaze with luminescence in the night sky. 

ABOVE: Planetary nebula NGC 
2392, also called the Eskimo Neb¬ 
ula, about 5000 light-years from 
Earth in the constellation Gemini. 
A planet might produce a similar 
ring of comet-like streamers as 
electrical stresses on the body rise 
to a proportionate level. 

LEFT: As a more positively charged 
planetary intruder approaches the 
Earth, it responds by producing an 
electrical discharge “beard” stretch¬ 
ing toward our planet. 


“Scarface” —Image of the Warrior-Hero 

FAR LEFT: The planet Mars with 
its great chasm, Valles Marin- 

NEAR LEFT:The Aztec Xipe, the 
“flayed god,” displaying his 
deeply scarred face. 

One of the most remarkable geological fea¬ 
tures in the solar system is the gigantic Valles 
Marineris on Mars. On Earth this chasm would 
run from San Francisco to New York and swallow 
hundreds of Grand Canyons. 

In the early 1970's, engineer Ralph Juergens 
had proposed that electrical arcs between celes¬ 
tial bodies created many geologic features of the 
Moon and Mars, removing large portions of the 
excavated material into space. Of such hypothe¬ 
sized events, no feature on Mars provides a better 
example than Valles Marineris. The image above, 
one of the early photos returned by the first Mari¬ 
ner probe of Mars, shows the chasm dominating 
the visible hemisphere. 

Many cultures recall a mythical warrior or 
giant struck down by a “lightning” weapon 
(sword, spear, etc.) and scarred by the deep gash 
or wound left on his forehead, cheek, or thigh. In 
view of the cross-cultural links of the warrior 
archetype to the planet Mars, the possible rela¬ 
tionship of the “Scarface” theme to the creation 
of the Valles Marineris is well worth investigat¬ 
ing. “Scarface” was the name of a legendary 
Blackfoot Indian warrior, also called “Star Boy.” 
A close counterpart was the Pawnee warrior 
Morning Star—who was explicitly identified as 
the planet Mars (not Venus as some might have 
supposed). On the other side of the world, Greek 
mythology described various heroes and rogues 
(one and the same archetype) struck down by the 
lightning-weapon. When Ares, the planet Mars, 

was wounded in battle, he roared with the shout 
of a thousand warriors, rushing to Zeus to display 
the deep gash. So too, the hero Heracles, also 
identified with Mars, was remembered for the 
deep wound on his “hip-joint.” The monster 
Typhon, vanquished by Zeus, was the “lightning 
scarred” god, as was the giant Enceladus. Hindu 
myths speak of the deep scar on the head of the 
warrior Indra, god of the cosmic thunderbolt, and 
a thunderbolt was said to have scarred the mon¬ 
strous giant Ravena. 

Did a hemispheric scar on Mars, left by an 
interplanetary lightning bolt, provoke the 
“Scarface“ theme? If so, the event occurred 
within human memory , and that would mean 
within the past several thousand years. 


ABOVE: A Themis image of Valles Marineris 
shows many telltale signs of electric discharge. 
The removal of immense volumes of Martian sur¬ 
face remains one of the great mysteries of Mars. 

Electrical Encounters in Space 

The acceleration of electrons in the Earth’s atmo¬ 
sphere begins to generate catastrophic winds, and soon 
regional tornadoes ravage the landscape. 

All these phenomena are a result of electrical charge 
redistribution on Earth, before any interplanetary arcs 
pass between the two spheres. To persons standing in the 
open air, from the plains of Asia to the prairies of North 
America, the atmosphere feels parched. Winds grow 
intense and hot and the land seems ready to burst into 
flame. Around the globe, amid the growing noise of 
electrical activity, lightning strikes continuously, even 
from cloudless skies. 

Abruptly, the intense regional winds coalesce into a 
hemispheric hurricane, punctuated by electrical out¬ 
bursts. Fires erupt spontaneously, many to be quenched by sudden 
deluges of rain. 

Electron streamers from Earth reach Mars and form an incan¬ 
descent torus or donut-like plasma band around the planet, storing 
electromagnetic energy. When the torus becomes unstable, power¬ 
ful arcs descend from it to the Martian surface near the equator and 
begin to raise the stupendous "blisters” of Olympus Mons and the 
other mighty "volcanoes" on the Tharsis ridge. 

The arcs have bridged the vacuum gap between the two planets, 
and by so doing they "throw the switch" that unleashes the massive 
return stroke of a cosmic thunderbolt. The interplanetary arc takes 
the form of entwined "ropes" erupting from the Martian south pole 
and extending toward the Earth's north pole, the twin current fila¬ 
ments whirling about a common axis in the classic form of the 
caduceus. At the focal points of the electrical connection, electrons 
are stripped from Earth's surface. Then positively charged particles 
along with surface debris, explode from elevated regions of Earth, 
to follow the electrons away from the planet. 

Soon the axes of the two planets are locked electrically into 
polar alignment and Earth’s North Polar region is engulfed in the 
flares of electrical arcing between the two bodies. Increasingly 
powerful electrical outbursts hurl streams of charged material from 
Earth’s atmosphere and surface into space. 

On elevated plateaus of Earth, cosmic-scale lightning bolts race 
across and under the surface, excavating deep trenches up to many 
miles in length, then depositing the removed material over large 
areas to either side. Along the trenches, and at other elevated 
regions, rotating arcs—electrical "whirlwinds"—light the terrestrial 
landscape, descending from the sky to scoop out great circular pits 
or craters. Across the plains and forests and deserts of the Northern 

A coronal mass ejection (CME) on 
the Sun heaves twisted filaments 
of atmospheric material into 
space. Electrical discharges of 
this sort would be likely if a posi¬ 
tively charged planet approached 
a more negatively charged body. 

* ♦ 

An impression of the electrical 
effect of planets in close approach 
may be gleaned from this photo¬ 
graph of the onset of a discharge 
between two spheres. In this anal¬ 
ogy, the lower sphere represents 
the Earth, the upper one the 
encroaching planet. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Hemisphere, the debris that isn’t pulled into space falls back to the 

These electrical vortices are the extensions of a hemispheric, 
electrically driven "wind," rotating around the North Polar axis of 
Earth. At the outskirts of this electrical hurricane, discharges ignite 
fields and forests beneath rotating columns of fire. An Arctic vortex 
engulfs the polar landscape. Water and surface material surge from 
Earth toward the approaching planet. Where the exchange is most 
intense, electrical discharge scours away layers of Arctic rock, soil, 
and sediment. The Arctic Ocean becomes a whirlpool beneath a 
rotating column of atmosphere and debris reaching into space. 
Land and ocean merge into a maelstrom around the polar axis, 
sweeping up vegetation and creatures of sea and land and dropping 
them in crushed and jumbled heaps in a ring around the outskirts of 
the rotating storm. 

Tidal waves overrun the continents and sweep material south¬ 
ward. Trees, animals, rocks, and mud deluge the northern regions 
of Europe, Asia and North America, settling on plains and on the 
sides of mountain ranges. 

To earthbound witnesses that survive, the sky is a sea of flame 
rotating about a tornado-like column, rent by continuous corkscrew 
discharges and reaching upward from earth toward the planetary 
intruder. Seen from the lower latitudes, the column is a glowing pil¬ 
lar, surrounded by serpentine rivers of fire and smoke. This is the 
return stroke of the cosmic thunderbolt, with spiraling, dragon-like 

As the electron flow leaves the 
Earth, an electrically powered “tor¬ 
nado” rises from the Earth’s polar 
region toward the visitor. 

Material removed from the surfaces of both planets produces an 
interplanetary field of rock, gas, dust, and ice. Seen from Earth, a 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

sky-darkening cloud of debris encircles Mars and 
stretches toward the Earth, illuminated by comet-like 
streamers and explosive bursts of lightning. Writhing, spi¬ 
raling, phantom-like formations appear in bursts of elec¬ 
trical discharge, as the debris hurtles through regions of 
different potential. 

Dust falls, accompanied by sand, then by gravel and 
rock, and finally by boulders, dropping amid the clamor of 
electrical screeches, howls, and whistles. A continuous 
roll of thunder reverberates around the Earth. There is no 
escaping the sights and sounds of devastation—the 
doomsday conflagration of wind, water, and fire. 

A Question of Cosmic History 

The events described in the above scenario pose questions and 
concerns broader than any specialized inquiry. If such events 
occurred, where might we look for evidence? Certainly, the evi¬ 
dence would not be in short supply! But what changes in current 
perception would be required for us to see evidence as evidence? 

Within the world’s educated populations, most beliefs about 
what is possible come directly from the teachings of science. But 
often the greatest obstacle to discovery is the inertia of prior belief. 
Examples abound, from centuries of denying that the Earth moves 
around the sun to mathematical proofs that heavier-than-air flight is 
impossible. Transcending this obstacle requires a wider field of 
view, for every age suffers from its own limited sense of possibility. 
Science at its best expands this sense of the possible. 

Albert Einstein used the metaphor of climbing a mountain and 
gaining ever-wider vistas. From the higher vantage point you can 
see the lower, enabling you to understand how its limited view once 
seemed correct. From the higher viewpoint the old limitations 
become apparent, earlier explanations lose their validity, and the 
picture of the world changes. 

Investigation across the disciplinary boundaries demands a con¬ 
tinual reexamination of theoretical starting points. We must be 
mindful of all assumptions, so that critical turns in the evolution of 
theoretical frameworks can be taken into account in all fields 
affected by them. 

Even the violent storms of today 
sometimes exhibit the characteris¬ 
tics of electrical interactions. Here 
we see stacked toroid shapes, 
each embedded in the one above. 

Witnesses to Catastrophe 

The chroniclers of old were not physicists, but they recorded 
human experiences that will prove vital to scientific investigation. 
While we shall give little or no weight to isolated testimony, it 
would be unreasonable to ignore the agreement between diverse 


The Martian Source of Meteorites 

A widely repeated ancient claim is that light¬ 
ning storms produce falling rocks or “thunder- 
stones.” (See theme #7 in our list of thunderbolt 
motifs, page 41.) “The thunderstone falls down 
from the sky in thunderstorms or, more accurately, 
whenever the lightning strikes,” states Christopher 
Blinkenberg, the leading authority on the supersti¬ 
tion. By what reasoning did this improbable but 
worldwide association of lightning and falling 
stone occur? Certainly nothing experienced in 
modern times could have provoked the theme. 

Yet, within the framework of our reconstruc¬ 
tion, the idea is predictable. Both the original 
myths and the derivative superstitions can be traced 
to an epoch of planetary upheaval, when electrical 
arcs flew between planets in close congregation. 
Electric discharge excavated great quantities of 
material from planetary surfaces, generating clouds 
of meteoric or cometary debris—the mythic armies 
of chaos. Some portion of the material would inevi¬ 
tably fall on earth. 

Thus a shower of stones was said to have 
occurred in the attack of Typhon. And in the “clash 
of the Titans,” a popular Greek theme, the gods 
launched both thunderbolts and boulders, nearly 
destroying heaven and earth. In fact, the theme was 
exceedingly widespread in the ancient world. The 
chaos armies of the Hindu warrior Indra, called the 
Maruts, simultaneously flash “lightning” and hurl 
stone. In Tibetan traditions the thunderbolt takes 
the form of the dorje , called “the king of stones.” 

ABOVE: A Viking lander photograph of the Martian 
surface shows a landscape littered with sharp- 
edged rocky debris. In the hypothesis offered here, 
the vast majority of the debris originated from Mars 
itself, in massive episodes of electrical discharging. 

Considering the archetypal link of the warrior- 
god to the planet Mars, it is intriguing to find that 
meteorites from Mars are now identified on Earth. 
In a number of instances (more than a dozen), 
chemists have determined this from the signature 
left in the rocks by the Martian atmosphere. But if 
electrical discharge removed Martian surface mate¬ 
rial miles deep, then we can be certain that thou¬ 
sands of times more rocks from Mars do not 
possess the signature of Mars’ atmosphere. They 
originated well beneath the planet’s surface. 

In recent decades no one has devoted more 
attention to tracing ancient images of the planet 
Mars than Ev Cochrane (author Martian Metamor¬ 
phoses.) Cochrane notes that the Babylonians, the 
most advanced astronomers in the ancient world, 
describe meteorites falling from Mars. For exam¬ 
ple, a text says “If a fireball [meteor] (coming from) 
Mars is seen....” Mars was given the name Nergal, 
of whom it was said, “Great giants, raging demons, 
with awesome numbers, run at his right and at his 
left.” “You hurl the towering stone .... You hurl the 
stone in hymn declares. Cochrane 
concludes that, in episodes of planetary catastro¬ 
phe, “Mars was seen to hurl great bolides towards 
Earth, the capture of which was presumably made 
easy by the near passage of the red planet.” 

Electrical Encounters in Space 

cultures, particularly when that agreement involves specific but 
highly unusual details that defy simple and direct observation in 
our own time. In fact, the accord revealed by comparative analysis 
is far greater than general studies of the archaic cultures have ever 

Around the world, ancient sky watchers drew pictures of things 
that do not appear in our sky today. Yet the pictures reveal global 
similarities. Storytellers recalled events of celestial splendor and 
terror. In ritual reenactments from culture to culture, ancient 
nations re-lived the celestial dramas, telling how a prior world order 
fell into chaos. And beneath the pandemic surface confusion, we 
discover identical patterns and meanings in pictures, words, and 
commemorative practices. 

The “tree of life,” depicted on an 
Assyrian cylinder seal impression 
(ninth or eighth century B.C.), 
shows the tree between two mythic 
“griffins” and two “caprids.” The 
cosmic tree is among the most uni¬ 
versal and compelling mythical 
themes, but few modern scholars 
have wondered if the heaven- 
reaching form may have once been 
seen in the sky. The similarities of 
the ancient design elements to the 
unique forms of high-energy 
plasma discharge is now a subject 
of scientific scrutiny by Anthony 
Peratt and his colleagues. 

In these pages we dispute the modern appraisal of world 
mythology. Common “explanations” of the great myths cannot 
account for the layer of integrity beneath the wildly contradictory 
surface elaborations. In fact, the consensus of the different cultures 
constitutes an unrecognized substructure of human memory in 
ancient times. Additionally, the earliest astronomical records pro¬ 
vide a library of evidence, illuminating the substructure in many 
surprising ways. Meticulous observers of the sky preserved vital 
links between their mythic gods and the planets of a recently orga¬ 
nized solar system. These links will be particularly important 
because the great majority of tribes and nations around the world 
did not preserve sufficient astronomical knowledge to identify their 
gods, goddesses, heroes, and chaos monsters with the celestial bod¬ 
ies that inspired the myths. 

Planets brought world upheaval, a catastrophic fall of rock, fire 
and flood. This is the message extracted from systematic cross-cul¬ 
tural investigation. But the interpretations of scholarly researchers 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

The lotus and papyrus columns of 
the ancient Egyptian temple of Kar- 
nak direct our attention to countless 
myths of the world pillar, frequently 
remembered as a brightly glowing 
plant or tree of life whose stem or 
trunk was the world axis. 

Among the Norse tribes, the 
Valkyries became a popular sym¬ 
bol of chaos overtaking the world. 
When catastrophe arrives, the 
Valkyries ride across the sky with 
their hair streaming in the wind. 

today are conditioned by modern beliefs. Scholars assume that the 
ancient storytellers simply didn’t understand the forces of nature as 
we do today. And they are correct. But modern scholars are 
unaware of, or ignore, two hidden assumptions that are no longer 
tenable. They presume that the forces of nature were the same in 
ancient times as today, and they suppose that no fundamental new 
discoveries about the universe are likely, or even possible. So as 
unexpected vistas open before them, they begin to rationalize, 
grasping for explanatory straws. If chroniclers from every culture 
tell of a fiery dragon in the heavens, perhaps they were simply shar¬ 
ing with each other various exaggerations of local adventures. Or 
perhaps it is “only natural” that they would imagine a great moun¬ 
tain of the gods, a column of fire and light, as a metaphor for the 
invisible axis of the world. Or maybe there is a deeply psychologi¬ 
cal quirk involved, a common but irrational part of the species, 
causing people everywhere to give the same underlying structure to 
their fanciful tales. 

Such responses cannot begin to account for the agreement 
within human testimony, when that testimony is examined objec¬ 
tively and comprehensively. Cultures the world over, using different 
words and different mythical images, invoke the same extraordinary 
forms in the sky and the same experiences of devastating upheaval: 
These universal themes will not be resolved by any fragmentary 
approach. What did the celestial dragon or chaos monster signify? 
Why was the monster so commonly linked to a celestial whirlpool, 
whirlwind, tornado, or “storm wind”? What did the dragon’s flam¬ 
ing countenance or fire-breathing aspect mean? Why was the 
female form of the monster so commonly identified as the “terrible 
aspect” of a mother goddess? And who was the ancestral warrior, 
the celestial hero who met the monster in combat? 

The above sketch of a planetary encounter is the first glimpse of 
a hypothesis—a proposed new way of comprehending events 
remembered in ancient times. If the Earth was formerly joined in a 
devastating electrical encounter of planets, what might a pre-literate 
people have seen in this encounter? How might they have recorded 
the events? 

• In the conflagration of fire, wind, and stone, would they imag¬ 

ine great wars of the gods? 

• In the heaven-spanning electrical discharge formations would 

they see the “thunderbolts” of divine powers in the sky? 

• In the filamentary outflow of discharge, would they see the 

wildly disheveled hair of gods or goddesses? 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

• In the spiraling and undulating formations, would they see ser¬ 

pents or dragons in combat? 

• In the electrified debris-clouds, would they see the celestial 

“armies” of chaos and darkness? 

Archetype and Symbol 

It is essential that we avoid a common misunderstanding about 
the nature of world mythology. In popular imagination “myth” sim¬ 
ply means fiction, something to be contrasted with “reality,” and 
that is all there is to it. Though the popular use of the term is inap¬ 
propriate, we do not desire to glorify mythology as a source of 
higher teachings or hidden wisdom. On the face of it, world 
mythology is a barbaric madhouse, riddled with contradictions and 

But in the end, the underlying consensus—the recurring themes 
or archetypes —will rescue us from the contradictions of myth, 
enabling us to discover a substratum of astonishing integrity. The 
distinguished analytical psychologist Carl Jung first used the term 
archetype in connection with the origins of myth and symbol, sug¬ 
gesting universal patterns too often ignored in prior studies of 
myth. An archetype is an irreducible first form. It cannot be reduced 
to a more elementary statement. In connection with world mythol¬ 
ogy, it means the original idea or structure, whether it is the root 
idea behind the “goddess” image, the model of a “good king” or 
“hero,” or the ideal form of a sacred temple or city. 

To recognize the archetypes in the ancient world is to open up a 
new and crucial field of investigation, since many hundreds of glo¬ 
bal patterns persisted for thousands of years. It is vital that the 
reader keep in mind, however, that by “archetype” we do not mean 
the unconscious structures of thought to which Jung referred, but an 
original pattern of conscious human experience, to which numer¬ 
ous unconscious ideas and tendencies may indeed trace. 

A considerable debt is also owed to the distinguished student of 
comparative religion, the late Mircea Eliade of the University of 
Chicago, author of numerous books on the subject and editor in 
chief of the Encyclopedia of Religion. Perhaps Eliade has done 
more than any other scholar to show that world mythology rests 
upon a coherent substructure. It is not the mere collection of dis¬ 
connected fragments traditionally assumed within the western 

Surely the late Joseph Campbell did the most to awaken popular 
interest in myth. Following a comparative approach, Campbell 
brought to light a large number of global themes—the “hero with a 
thousand faces,” the “angry goddess,” the “world mountain,” 

Carl Jung, a pioneer of depth 
psychology, discovered many 
universal patterns in ancient 
myths and symbols. These 
“archetypes,” he said, can be 
seen even in the earliest civiliza¬ 
tions, and they speak for mysteri¬ 
ous structures of the subcon¬ 
scious still with us today. 


The Conjunction of Goddess and Hero 

“Mars and Venus, known as Parnassus,” paint¬ 
ing by Andrea Mantegna, 1431 -1507. On the 
summit of the mythic mountain of the gods, 
the archetypal warrior consorts with the 
mother goddess. 

In the alchemical text, Gemma gemmarum , the 
goddess Venus describes herself in relation to the 
warrior Mars: 

Transparent, green, and fair to view, 

I am commixt of every hue, 
yet in me's a red spirit hid, 
no name I know by which he's bid, 
and he did from my husband come, 
the noble Mars, full quarrelsome 

In the Sumerian temple of Inanna, a great cele¬ 
bration occurred when the legendary king 
Dumuzi engaged in sacred congress with the god¬ 
dess. Playing the role of Inanna, a revered prin¬ 
cess consorted with the king of Sumer, the living 
symbol of the hero Dumuzi. In this way, the cele¬ 
brants symbolically renewed their world, just as 
had occurred in the age of gods and wonders. 

A mirror of this marriage was that of Ishtar 
and Tammuz in Babylonian rites. But other Meso¬ 
potamian cities conducted their own variations on 
the theme. In Lagash it was the warrior Ningirsu 
who united with the goddess Baba, alter ego of 
Inanna. Other gods, including Enki, Ninurta,and 
Ningizzida, played similar roles in their respec¬ 
tive cities. By his symbolic reenactment of the 
primeval “marriage,” the king on earth certified 
his role as regent or successor of the ancestral 
warrior in heaven. In doing so, he assured the fer¬ 
tility and abundance of the land. 

The “sacred marriage” was common to king- 
ship rites throughout the ancient Near East, with 
countless parallels and elaborations amongst the 
world’s ancient cultures. In many instances it 
became an integral component of New Years’ fes¬ 
tivals—collective reenactments of catastrophe 
and celestial chaos, followed by the restoration of 
order in heaven and on earth. For an understand¬ 
ing of these events it is essential that we follow 
the dominant planetary associations of the god¬ 
dess and the hero in astronomical traditions. 
Though we can only introduce the subject here, it 

will be a primary theme in monographs to come, 
and the clues are well worth pursuing. 

A notable Greek example is the “marriage” of 
Aphrodite and Ares (Venus and Mars), a subject 
of the 8th chapter of Homer’s Odyssey. 

Due to the many tribal memories integrated 
into the chronicles of heroes, the “marriages” 
sometimes reach comic dimensions. Heracles 
(Latin Hercules) “marries” Megara, the daughter 
of Creon, king of Thebes, and Deianeira, daugh¬ 
ter of Oenus, king of Calydon,but consorts with 
uncountable numbers of other “princesses,” each 
with her own localized story. That Heracles was a 
Greek name for Mars is not a small clue! 

But how strongly did the astronomical tradi¬ 
tion influence Greek poetry? Opinions will differ, 
but Lucian’s words in the second century AD res¬ 
onate well with the global theme. “It is the con¬ 
juncture of Venus and Mars that creates the poetry 
of Homer.” 

A Basque tradition depicts the goddess Mari 
riding in a celestial cart or on a “broomstick 44 in a 
ball of fire (a pointer to the medieval “witch”). 
The myths says that she “was the planet Venus ... 
Her son-lover was Sugaar, the planet Mars.” 

In North America, the Pawnee knew Mars as a 
legendary warrior, and when Mars and Venus 
approached conjunction, they celebrated the war¬ 
rior’s ancient “marriage to the daughter of a great 
chief’—a perfect replica of the Old World mar¬ 
riage of goddess (princess) and warrior-hero. 

Electrical Encounters in Space 

renewal through sacrifice, and dozens of other motifs. 

It is also clear that the pioneers of comparative study could not 
account for the content of myth in terms of natural events. And they 
stopped short of asking the most important question of all: if the 
natural referents of the myths are now missing, is it possible that 
they were present in a former time? Campbell, for example, recog¬ 
nized the worldwide doomsday theme—the idea of a prior age col¬ 
lapsing violently. But he did not relate the memory to anything that 
may have actually occurred in our world to inspire the memory. 

Event and Interpretation 

The first step toward understanding the myth-making epoch is 
to distinguish between the unusual and the imaginative . The events 
that inspired the archetypes of world mythology are unusual, not 
part of our familiar world today at all. But the ancient interpreta¬ 
tions are imaginative: humans projected wide-ranging personalities 
and mythic qualities onto objects and formations in space. In its 
skepticism about the patterns of human memory, the modern world 
forgot the distinction between natural event and human interpreta¬ 
tion, then tossed out the entire body of evidence. 

A systematic exploration of ancient sources will show that our 
ancestors lived beneath an alien sky, a world so different from all 
subsequent experience that the storytellers, in describing the prodi¬ 
gious events, drew upon a vast complex of analogies to make sense 
of them. Great spectacles in the sky produced an explosion of 
human imagination, a myth-making epoch that finds no counterpart 
in later times. 

When the gods went to war, the heavens shook. Lightning sped 
between the celestial combatants as flaming weapons, with the fate 
of the gods themselves hanging in the balance. For anyone seeking 
to comprehend the ancient images, there can be no greater mistake 
than to rationalize away the cosmic scale of the described events. 
This was a time of human wonder and overwhelming fear, the mea¬ 
sure of which cannot be gauged by anything presently witnessed in 
the heavens. 

But is human testimony reliable? Or did the myth-makers sim¬ 
ply defy all natural experience, including direct and unassailable 
observation, in order to conjure things never seen? The mythic 
“thunderbolt” will provide us with an exemplary test of the ancient 
witnesses’ power of observation. Certain extraordinary facts can 
now be stated concerning the archetypes, and these facts challenge 
all prior explanations or theories of myth— 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

Fact #1: No archetype finds its natural referent in the world of 
common experience. All widespread themes of myth point to 
events that do not occur in our time. 

Fact #2: All archetypes are inseparably connected to each 
other. No isolated archetype can be found. It is this stunning 
fact that validates the underlying integrity of the substratum. 

Fact #3: All archetypes trace to the beginnings of recorded 
human history. After the flowering of ancient civilizations, it 
does not appear that any new archetypes arose. 

We further claim that heaven was once alive with electricity as 
planets moved through a rich plasma environment. Ambient electri¬ 
cal activity gave rise to unearthly sights and sounds and earth-dis¬ 
turbing events. In the wake of these events, cultures around the 
world strove to reckon with the forces unleashed, to interpret the 
meaning of cosmic catastrophe, and to remember. 

The urge of ancient peoples to record and to repeat 
their stories in words reflected the same fundamental 
impulse we see in all other forms of reenactment and 
alignment in ancient ritual, art, and architecture. Recitation 
of the story momentarily transported both the storyteller 
and the listener backwards to the mythical epoch, which 
was experienced as more compelling, more “true” than 
anything that came later. And that is why, amongst all early 
civilizations, as noted by Mircea Eliade and others, the 
world-changing events to which the myths refer provided 
the models for all collective activity of the traditional cul- 



It needs to be understood as well that the globally 
recurring themes appear to be as old as human writing. All 
of the common signs and symbols we shall review in these 
monographs appear to precede the full flowering of civili¬ 
zation. This rarely acknowledged fact, which could be eas¬ 
ily disproved if incorrect, is of great significance. If our 
early ancestors were habituated to inventing experience, 
we should expect an endless stream of new mythical con- 

A scene from the film “Wickerman,” 
based on Celtic legends and rites, 
personifies the ancient idea of 
world devastation through the 
burning of a colossal “man.” In the 
most archaic forms of the general 
tradition, the figure dying, dismem¬ 
bered, or incinerated in the confla¬ 
gration represents the original unity 
of “heaven.” 

tent over the millennia. 

This absence of invention throughout almost all of human his¬ 
tory forces us to ask how the original “creativity” of myth arose. If 
the myths are purely “imaginative fiction,” with no objective, origi¬ 
native event, why did later generations lose the ability to generate 
such fiction? But if, on the other hand, the myths arose as the 
human response to extraordinary events, then we must ask, what 
were the events? In answering this question, we cannot afford to 
exclude any domain of ancient testimony. 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

Ritual Celebrations 

Enter the ancient world and all familiar signposts disappear. But 
there is a key in the relentless glance backward, occurring at every 
level of activity in the early civilizations, from monument building 
to an outpouring of hymns and prayers to the gods. We see it in 
ancient foundation ceremonies of temples and cities, in rites of 
kingship and sacrifices to the gods, and in the violent wars of con¬ 
quest, by which tribal chiefs forged new nations, king¬ 
doms, and empires. A review of such activity, with 
particular attention to the ritual contexts, will show a dis¬ 
tinctive commemorative function. Indeed, we would not 
be going too far to suggest that civilization itself was a 
bursting forth of new and creative forms of remember¬ 
ing —all harking back to some aspect of a primeval con¬ 
flict between order and chaos. 

With unprecedented effort, a sense of urgency, and 
often remarkable skill, ancient stargazers raised towering, 
heaven-oriented monuments—pyramids and obelisks, 
ziggurats and great stone circles, monstrous creatures 
guarding city gates, and everywhere a panoply of gods 
and goddesses and celestial heroes whose explicit forms 
mock every attempt of the specialists to understand them. 

The first mystery here is one of motivation. What 
drove early races to mobilize these endeavors, to drag 
huge stones over great distances, and to invest such col¬ 
lective energy in construction activity? Before the Egyp¬ 
tians, Sumerians, Aztecs, or Maya ever raised a sacred 
edifice, they would look back to primordial times. The foundation 
ceremonies reenacted noteworthy junctures in the lives of the gods. 
And invariably, at critical turns in the stories, chaos monsters reared 
their heads, threatening to ruin all of creation. 

Nothing was deemed more essential to life than reverential 
respect for the mythical models in a remote epoch. Every king 
received his sanction from the model of a good king, illustrated by 
the lives of gods. Every sacred mountain reflected the light and 
power of the cosmic mountain, on which the gods themselves 
assembled. Every temple or city was built as a replica of the temple 
or city of heaven. 

Of this truth, Eliade wrote continuously throughout his life. All 
of the models for human institutions and prescribed behavior, he 
said, “are believed to have been ‘revealed’ at the beginning of 

time”—and that means in the primeval age of the gods. 41 

Chinese Temple of Heaven, a rep¬ 
lica of the radiant habitation origi¬ 
nally created by gods in the sky. 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

The Buddhist Naga serpent 
Padoha, ruler of dark realms ever 
since he attempted to destroy the 

In the particulars of his conscious behavior, the “primitive,” the 
archaic man, acknowledges no act which has not been previously 
posited and lived by someone else, some other being who was not a 
man. What he does has been done before. His life is the ceaseless rep¬ 
etition of gestures initiated by others. 42 

Thus, “rituals and significant profane gestures,” according to Eli- 
ade, “deliberately repeat such acts posited ab origine by gods, 
heroes, or ancestors.” 43 We can only add that, on examination, the 
legendary heroes or ancestors of epic literature turn out to be the 
mythic gods themselves, simply presented in more human form, a 
common pattern in the evolution of myth over time. 

Though the gods were powerful, they were not invincible. Nor 
were they always kind or merciful. Even as the priest-astronomers 
invoked the splendor of the gods, they strove through magical and 
often innovative means to reckon with the gods’ caprice. The 
ancient sphinxes and winged bulls and gargantuan towers signify a 
reservoir of meaning to be preserved at all cost. Together they 
reflect both a celebration of the age of the gods and a collective 
defense against chaos—that ever-present threat to which, in the 
remembered “End of the World f even the greatest gods succumbed. 

Competing impulses drove the birth of civilization. One 
impulse was nostalgia, a yearning for something remembered as the 
ideal—a primordial condition —subsequently lost. The second 
impulse was terror—the pervasive, ever-present fear that devastat¬ 
ing events in the past will happen again. It seems that at all levels of 
collective activity, every civilization in the ancient world expressed 
the same contrasting motives. 

But why do nostalgia and terror stand in such a paradoxical 
relationship? Clearly this is no accident. At work is the memory of 
an epoch without counterpart in later cultural history, an epoch of 
exquisite beauty, when visible “gods” ruled the world. And it was 
this very epoch that came crashing down in catastrophe. From one 
land to another the myths and ritual reenactments thus proclaim 
that the gods ruled for a time, then went to war, bringing universal 
darkness and cosmic tumult. 

How was it, then, that sacred practices and ritual reenactments 
gave meaning, or a sense of potential defense? Clearly, the human 
intent was to establish a rapport with the gods, and this included a 
presumed ability to share magically in the observed achievements 
of the gods. As a rule, every symbolic object or rite possessed the 
ability to reproduce, on a human scale, a magical feat of divine pre¬ 
decessors. What the gods achieved on the celestial plane could be 
achieved on earth through imitation. As above, so below; as before, 
so again. Every monument and every ritual practice will thus hold 


The Roots of Sacrifice and “Holy” War 

“As each child issued from the holy womb 
And lay upon its mother's knees, each one 
Was seized by mighty Kronos, and gulped down.” 
Hesiod, Theogony 

RIGHT: At the top of an Aztec temple’s steps, a 
priest removes the heart of a sacrificial victim 
and holds it up, still beating, to be witnessed by 
the gods. The evidence makes clear that the 
sacrificial victims in these rites represented the 
divine heroes and demons of the mythic past. 

Greek Kronos or Saturn devouring 
his children, as depicted by Fran¬ 
cisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746- 
1828). Kronos, a counterpart of the 
Egyptian Atum-Ra and Sumerian 
An (primeval Unity of heaven), 
ruled for a time, then fell from his 
dominating position in the sky. But 
what did the astronomers mean 
when they identified this power with 
the planet Saturn? The theme will 
loom as a centerpiece of our story. 

In the Greek myths of Kronos and the lost Golden Age, the 
original ruler of the sky swallowed his own children Then, in the 
cosmic wars that followed, the heavens nearly collapsed under the 
rush of gods against gods. 

It seems that in the ancient world celestial beauty and divine 
caprice stood side by side, feeding the great contradictions of 
human perception—nostalgia, reverence, anxiety, and terror. 

Is it possible that the entire spectrum of ancient experience can 
now be brought into the light of day? On every habitable continent 
our early ancestors strove to imitate the gods, to repeat the events 
of the “First Time” or the “Great Time.” Even in the darkest and 
most violent aspects of the early civilizations—in the wars of con¬ 
quest and the sacrifices of human victims—the warrior-kings and 
priests repeated mythical episodes in the lives of divine predeces¬ 

For reasons scholars rarely comprehend, the poets say that the 
gods loved the smell of sacrifice and incited men to war. On earth, 
war became “holy” if it found sanction in the prior feats of the 
gods themselves. And warrior hordes learned to celebrate the cos¬ 
mic battles of the gods, imitating the frenzy of the celestial confla¬ 
gration and identifying their own neighbors with the fiends of 
chaos, the sky-darkening clouds that threatened the world in pri¬ 
meval times. By this identification, their flashing weapons came to 
represent nothing else than the cosmic thunderbolt. 

Thunderbolts of the Gods 

A vignette from the Egyptian 
Papyrus of Ani, shows the 
deceased, on reaching the after- 
world, repeating the feats of the 
gods by slaying the serpent- 
enemy of cosmic order. 

evidential value in our reconstruction. Each is a symbolic imitation 
pointing backward to the defining events of the myth-making 

Additionally, we find a remarkable consistency in the underly¬ 
ing meaning of the recurring symbols. The pyramid and sacred hill 
will always speak for the “world mountain” on which the gods 
dwelt in the beginning. The “sacred marriage” of kings will always 
reflect the archetypal liaison of the mother goddess and the warrior- 
hero. And the commotion, mock battles, and frenzied crowds of 
early New Year’s festivals will always reenact the celestial upheaval 
of the apocalypse, when gods and chaos powers battled in the heav¬ 
ens. This consistency in meaning is worldwide, and hundreds of 
examples will be given in these monographs. 


In these pages, we have posed a question that can only be 
answered through separate but mutually interdependent levels of 
investigation. Can the archetypes of world mythology be under¬ 
stood with the help of new tools in the sciences? The investigation 
has required us to cross-reference many fields of inquiry that have 
no history of interdisciplinary cooperation on the scale required by 
the question asked. 

We began with the story of the Andromeda, the dragon, and the 
warrior Perseus, who defeated the dragon to win the princess as 
bride. In the comparative approach, such stories as this come alive. 
The themes are meaningful and easily recognized. The princess, the 
dragon, and the hero belong to the core of archetypal mythology. 
But answers to the mysteries raised can only come through a new 
respect for the ancient experience, with an eagerness to follow evi¬ 
dence wherever it may lead. 

The principles of our presentation to this point can be summa¬ 
rized as follows. 


Electrical Encounters in Space 

1. All documented cultural traditions assert that an original 
epoch of gods and wonders ended in celestial chaos. Chronicles of 
catastrophe within the antique cultures thus provide critical evi¬ 
dence as to the natural occurrences involved. 

2. Plasma science is re-writing the textbook on galactic, stellar, 
and planetary evolution. This new science, emphasizing plasma and 
electricity in space, also illuminates the ancient dramas in surpris¬ 
ing ways. 

3. A few thousand years ago ancient artists carved millions of 
enigmatic images on stone. Comparative study of these images 
confirms that they depict heaven-spanning electrical discharge con¬ 
figurations, a conclusion now supported by the distinguished 
plasma scientist Anthony Peratt. 

4. All ancient cultures affirm that the remembered catastrophes 
involved earth-threatening battles of “gods” and monsters. Most 
common is the story of the fiery serpent or dragon attacking the 

5. Numerous accounts say that a great warrior vanquished the 
dragon. On investigation, the warrior’s invincible weapon turns out 
to be a cosmic thunderbolt. Though often obscured in later times, 
comparative analysis confirms that this original identity was univer¬ 

6. The mythic “thunderbolts of the gods” have virtually no sim¬ 
ilarity to regional lightning. They do, however, take the very forms 
of plasma discharge configurations in the laboratory. 

7. In the early astronomies, the most revered gods appear as 
towering forms in the sky. They are identified as planets, though 
their behavior bears no similarity to the behavior of planets today. 

In addition to these building blocks of a reconstruction, we have 
connected certain planets to the archetypal “personalities” of myth. 
In particular, we have named the warrior hero in relation to the 
planet Mars, and the mother goddess in relation to Venus. We have 
also suggested that the male and female forms of the chaos mon¬ 
sters are intimately linked to the “terrible aspects” of these same 
planets—a subject to which we intend to devote considerable atten¬ 

Archaic memories must be approached through cross-cultural 
comparison and interdisciplinary analysis. The study cannot fail to 
raise innumerable issues for science. These issues include, among 
other things, the nature of plasma phenomena, the nature of the sun 
and stars, the nature of comets, the competing roles of electricity 


Thunderbolts of the Gods 

The stepped pyramid of Saqqara 
in Egypt, one of the oldest stone 
structures in the world. The steps 
of the pyramid signified the tiers of 
the world mountain, by which 
ancestral gods ascended to the 

and gravity in modem theory, and the physical scars on planets and 

The power of the ancient evidence lies in the unity of the sub¬ 
stratum, the archetypes. It is this underlying integrity that gives us 
confidence in the reconciliation of science and historical inquiry. 
Certain things which theoretical science today considers out of the 
question were consistently remembered around the world, and at a 
level of detail and coherence that is inconceivable under standard 
assumptions about the past. 

But how do we deal with the situation when human memories 
speak convincingly for something which orthodox science, with 
equal confidence, denies? A meeting of the two is essential. Truth 
itself is unified, while mistaken perception invariably leads to con¬ 
flict and contradiction. Either we have misapplied principles of rea¬ 
soning to the historical evidence, or science is misreading evidence 
to a profound degree. 

We believe the latter is the case, and the primary error lies in a 
failure to see how plasma and electricity challenge the underpin¬ 
nings of traditional theory in the sciences. This is why we have cho¬ 
sen to consider the “thunderbolts of the gods” in this first 
monograph. The mythic theme brings us face to face with the role 
of electric discharge in cosmic events. 

Accordingly, we shall present our opening argument on behalf 
of the “Electric Universe” in the monograph to follow.